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Lions Roar : May 2017
In the beginning of our practice—once we get over, or get used to, our discomfort at sitting still and we realize we can sit for a half an hour (or longer!) with ease—what we notice is appreciation for silence and relief at finding concentration and spaciousness. We find that just counting our breaths or observing the sensations in our bodies makes us feel better. The Buddha noted that right concentration leads to rapture, and Dogen Zenji, the father of Soto Zen, noted that zazen (sitting meditation) is simply “the dharma gate of joyful ease.” This joyful ease is a wonderful and important part of medi- tation practice, and we can carry it with us throughout the day. In moments of panic or stress, when being aware and present may be too hard, we can remember a time when we were still. Even a memory of stillness and ease is useful. The next phase in our practice is becoming more intimate with ourselves. When we watch our thoughts and emotions arising and passing away for hours, and then for years, we come to see ourselves and the world differently. We really know that whatever arises will come to an end. We really know that the boundary between ourselves and others is not so firm. Dogen wrote, “To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self.” Some of us will have profound insights into the nature of reality. We may experience our conditioned self fall away and being one with the universe. But at the end of the day, we are back where we started. Nothing has happened. We have the same body. We have the same karma. We have the same depression and anxiety, and the same cultural conditioning of race, gender, and class. These never go away, and this is good and important, because this is the material we have to work with. This, as Ram Dass wrote, is “grist for the mill.” So we come back to the breath, to still- ness, to joyful ease, and awareness. Nothing happens, and we are very happy about it. GESSHIN GREENWOOD’s first book, Bow First, Ask Questions Later, will be released in 2018. PHOTOBYA.JESSEJIRYUDAVISPHOTO(RIGHT)BYSYDNEYANGEL