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 Zen Practice


TreesOur practice originated about 2500 years ago in India when Sidhartha Guatama, called the Buddha or "Awakened One" is said to have reached "enlightenment" while meditating under a tree at the first light of dawn. In our practice we open ourselves to the same direct experience of the nature of the self and of all things. This practice has passed from India to China to Japan and now to western societies. In the process of passing through cultures, the externals of the practice have adapted to the various environments, but its heart has remained unchanged. It is a practice accessible to every human being regardless of age, gender, race, or any other trait that differentiates human beings.

Zen is a practice of direct, unmediated awareness. It is not an intellectual exercise to develop a philosophy or theology. It is not belief in the contents of written works. It is not following a code of conduct. It is not an emotional catharsis. It is not performing good works.

Fundamentally Zen is being present here and now with what is here and now just as it is. It involves taking the energy of body and mind that we habitually use to create and maintain the "self" and focusing it on the present just as it is without interacting with what is going on. Our principal approach to achieving this focus is through Zen meditation. While reading about meditation and Zen may be helpful, reading and other activities are secondary to practice. In our practice we develop direct awareness, and we attempt with great calm and patience to bring this awareness to every moment of our life.

A combination of individual and group practice seems to work best for most people since we are social beings. Individual practice develops our determination to become awareness, while practicing in a group additionally motivates us and offers the opportunity to learn from others and to have our questions and concerns addressed. However, in the end it is up to each of us to determine and maintain our approach to studying the self through practice.

For more information about how to conduct your own zazen — or sitting meditation — session, please consult the following pages:

Next Page: Preparations for Sitting Meditation


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