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Lions Roar : July 2018
PHOTOBYLIZAMATTHEWS “sitting” at its center. This life also involves ethical conduct, work, liturgy, personal and communal relationships, and deep, almost continuous, contemplation of teachings. Engagement in this life over time (and sometimes all of a sudden) completely changes you. You see that your life isn’t what you thought it was. It comes and goes in a moment; noth- ing abides. Everything appears and disappears constantly. Life is ungraspable and miraculous, and there is no other way to live it than with endless appreciation—and with great sorrow, love, kindness, and constant gratitude. These profound and perhaps philosophical emotions and atti- tudes are characteristic of religious life. They are related to, and yet essentially different from, the humanistic goal of well-being and personal happiness. A downside of the traditional religious “packaging” of meditation is that it sounds too idealistic and vague to the modern ear. But once you get the hang of it, through living it, it becomes quite doable. The teachings begin to make sense. Zen especially expresses this in sayings such as “Everyday mind is the Way” and “Chop wood and carry water.” The ordinary yet profoundly mysterious, down- to-earth life of caring for the physical world, and, especially, for others, with full attention and commitment, is what the total package of religious practice—including but not limited to meditation—comes down to. We would do well, as we create a modern con- text for meditation practice, not to forget this. ZOKETSU NORMAN FISCHER is founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation. His most recent book is Experience: Thinking, Writing, Language, and Religion. Confusion Becomes Wisdom Judy Lief on how the motivation to med- itate deepens and expands at each stage of the Tibetan Buddhist path. THE WORD “MEDITATION” is a catchall term that has different meanings for different people. Even in a room full of meditators seemingly doing the same practice, who knows what each individual sitting on their individual chair or cushion is actually up to? Why is there so much variety in the way people approach meditation? I think that most of us come to it with different preconceptions and agendas. Something piques our interest or inspires us to give it a try. But as we continue to practice, such ideas begin to fade away and become less and less relevant to what is really going on. The contrast between our ideas about meditation and our actual experience of it becomes quite evident. Meditation has practical benefits for both mental and physi- cal health, and it is becoming recognized as an important com- ponent of a healthy lifestyle. That’s great. But that alone does not capture the power of such a practice. Meditation has many dimensions. It is not just about calm- ing. It is also about insight. Although people shy away from the word “enlightenment,” which seems intimidating, at its heart meditation is about awakening. After all, that is what the title “Buddha” means: awake. In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition of Tibet that I practice, meditation has two essential aspects, known as shamatha and vipashyana. The flavor of these two can be expressed by pairs such as settling and brightening, focusing and relaxing, con- centrating and expanding, and grounding and clarifying. In