Sunday, August 29, 2010

Zen Forms and Everyday Life

This morning's talk at the zen center was given by our elder lay statesman, who recently turned 70 years old. There are plenty of kind things I could say about him, especially how his focused, humble dedication to the various Zen forms and practices is such an inspiration to many of us in the community. However, today I just want to speak about something simple, which actually on the surface, might appear to "break form."

When I arrived in the zendo this morning, one of the usual zabutons (sitting cushion) at the front of the room was replaced by a chair. It was a small detail, but I noticed the difference right away, and thought about the debates I've seen online about meditation posture.

As Ken began his talk, he pointed to the chair and said "this is one of our new chairs - it was made for chello players - and so it has a nice upright back on it, good for zazen practice." Now, I know he had just led a one day retreat the day before, and perhaps his knees were tired from all that sitting. Thus, the chair. But he said nothing about that. Just pointed to the benefit of the chair for meditation practice, and then sat down and gave his talk.

To me, this was a great demonstration of our way. Not a lot of fussing about, and focusing in on the heart of the matter. And it also gave everyone in the room this morning permission to relax about form, even as he also emphasized the importance of form as well. You can sit upright and be fully attentive to your unfolding life in many different ways - including in a chair.

Not too tight, not too loose. Have you heard that before?

It's important to remember that there are forms and rituals mapped out for us in very specific ways. And then there is our everyday lives, unfolding as they do, swallowing every map we try to make or use, and spitting out something else entirely.

1 comment:

Jeanne Desy said...

Thank you for this post - from an older woman with a bad ankle and worse hip who can only sit in a chair. For quite a while I found it harder to pay attention, even though I sit with my back unsupported; there are good reasons for the usual posture. But sitting this way has grown easier with time.