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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 70 tree, finally won him through to awakening. Zen medita- tion is just this simple, childish practice. Just sitting, just breathing, being with whatever arises, but then letting go and coming back to just sitting and breathing, trusting that being alive in the body, the breath, the mind, and the heart is enough. Being content not to know, but simply to be present with life as it appears. Meditation is not what we think it is: it is not peacefulness or bliss or even a technique for insight or enlightenment. In its widest sense, meditation is an open and creative way of returning home to ourselves, a way in which the mystery that we actually are can have its full expression. Meditation is not limited to a particular technique or posture; any open-ended spiritual or creative exercise can be a form of meditation. Formal sitting meditation practice, as done in Zen or other schools of Buddhism (and in other traditions, too), is a powerful way to foster this open, creative engagement with ourselves. In formal sitting we practice the journey of return in a literal way, returning awareness to the breath, to the body, to the present moment, whenever it strays away. Most simply understood, formal sitting meditation is the ef- fort to return to the concrete feeling of being alive, a feeling that is always with us, but that we almost never notice, so preoccupied are we with our problems and issues. Meditation in general, and formal sitting meditation in particular, is radically simple. There’s almost nothing to it. Letting go, coming back—that’s all. The only difference between meditation and nonmeditation is that when we meditate we are not grasping anything or trying to do any- thing; instead, we are releasing ourselves to our lives, with trust that our lives are all we need. A monk once asked Zen Master Zhaozho what meditation is. “It’s nonmeditation,” he answered. “How can meditation be nonmeditation?” the monk asked. “It’s alive!” was Zhaozho’s response. HERE IS A SIMPLE formal meditation practice I often teach. Like all meditation techniques it is provisional, which is to say it is not crucial that you do it precisely or correctly or that you take it too seriously. The point of it is to help you in your effort to return to the present, which can sometimes be difficult without something concrete to focus on. First, sit down in a quiet spot. Whether you sit on a chair or a cushion, sit up straight, with your spine extended, your upper body open. Fold your hands in your lap, put them on your knees, or use the Zen hand position of left palm on top of right, with the palms gently curved, making an oval, thumb JULY 66-71.indd 70 JULY 66-71.indd 70 4/25/08 12:19:25 PM 4/25/08 12:19:25 PM