My learning style is to figure things out by doing rather than follow instructions. As a result, I don’t quite know how to make the most of my GPS nor how to smoothly switch between watching the television and DVDs. So it’s strange that I have felt the desire for instruction in meditation. The other morning during our “Creativity Session” with Fran, I asked him for more direction regarding the ‘sitting’ part of his session. Fran is a regular at a Zen Monastery in Mount Tremper, NY and has been seriously meditating for years now. He said that in Zen, there is very little instruction beyond establishing a comfortable, stable sitting posture and following the breath. As in the Japanese Koan, the answer, the way is found within ourselves.
While living in Kyoto, I was drawn to Buddhist temples, fascinated by the robed monks who sometimes floated by or collected my Yen at the gate. But I never ventured into to any of the many Zazen sessions available to foreigners. Perhaps it was remnants of Catholic-rebellion that prevented me from wanting to adopt any semblance of rote ritual. Besides, the language and ideas felt too oblique for me. I prefer my Buddhism interpreted by the likes of Pema Chodron or - through her anecdotes and straight talk.
Why this inability to trust myself when it comes to meditating? This irrational sense of not doing it right? Is it feeling that I’m not smart enough to really get it? That I’m missing something? Like what – the point? See? Intellectually, I know that I’m being silly. But still.
When our group discusses our late teacher, Mike Skop‘s soup of philosophy on perception, on being, etc., - I recall furiously scribbling notes because I barely made heads or tails of what he was talking about. But inevitably. a sound bite of something he said would resonate, and as I began to work the clay or hammer my chunk of wood or stone, I would understand, it would become part of me.
It’s in this almost physical way that insights would come to me. This is how I learn best – viscerally, through my work, previously artwork and now, writing. But it must come from a silence beyond the day-to-day, a quiet not immediately accessible by simply turning on the computer or taking out a blank pad.
Thanks to daily life and the crazy distractions found with an internet connection, is often hard for me to get to this place these days. This is why I hope to establish a discipline of ‘sitting’. Meditating, sitting with my legs crossed on the floor, feeling the earth beneath, the space above, counting breaths as my inner chatter fades, brings me closer to the zone, delivering me to the door of the intangible where magic can be found.