Monday, August 10, 2009

What Does Zen Look Like?

In conversation today, I realized it might be helpful if I post something that explains "what zen looks like" for those of you who have not had the opportunity to see it before.

Unlike many types of meditations in other traditions, zazen does not involve music, mantras or any other external stimulus. Rather, the point of zazen is to still one's mind in order to see the real nature of one's mind.

Zazen in a traditional Soto Japanese setting.

Why do this? And how does one get oneself into this pretzel of a position? Those questions are answered very nicely in this well-done video I discovered on YouTube.

Not only is his posture correct and his orientation right, but Patrick's sense of humor is very helpful. It's very easy to get too serious about meditation and think we're becoming something better, or accomplishing something! I like to keep in mind a simple meditation hint Kobun taught:
"... almost every time he talked about posture, after all the linings-up, balancing, and all those things, is a smile. Don’t forget to smile. Just a little bit, not a big grin. You can lift the corners of the mouth like you see in the statues of Buddha. Since then I’ve read that a smile actually changes our brain waves. A down-turned mouth also changes your mood. So how we sit is very important; our sitting can get quite grim if we comport ourselves that way, and it doesn’t need to be. It can be lightened up by a smile." --Angie Boissevain recalling Kobun Roshi's teaching on proper zazen posture. You can find more here, in the April 2007 Jikoji newsletter.


Anonymous said...

Nice video. It explained things clearly, with a good touch of humor. Great find.

Pilar Teishin said...

Glad you liked it! It's one of the best I've seen so far. It keeps a nice balance, and strikes the right tone I think.

Anonymous said...

what does zen look like ? more like what monks look like .
zen looks more like a world in a blaze approaching fluorescent colors almost and feeling like you have just won a lottery price big time ,and every day is the best day of your life .
don,t be fooled by anyone , there is much more out there than you possibly can imagine and its all for free for those who win it in this life and don,t let anyone fool you in telling him he is a teacher , a lot out there say they are cos it sounds good to them but they got no clue what its about compaired to what it realy is .if you cant feel there mind when you arewith them . they sure are not . that is they can only talk words than.

Pilar Teishin said...

Good point, Anonymous: Zen isn't about words. Indeed, zazen is called a method of "direct pointing", because anything less than your own, direct experience falls flat.

The purpose of this post may feel a bit awkward in its wording because no, "Zen" doesn't "look" like anything. At the time of my writing this post, a number of people who were used to other forms of new-age meditation were asking what zazen "looked" like. I wrote this as a way to show the basic technique, which is based on a very particular form of seated meditation. I hope it is helpful!

Anonymous said...

well perhaps I should not have said anything as is the general tradition, (appolgies to those who don,t like what I will now say next)
but to my best explanation zen is the energy from what we are after this life ,
to what we are in this life .
and that energy flow can in actual fact also be seen . to get at it you need to change ,
someting needs to change not in your thinking
or in what you do but actual change like having an hand cut off .
that will than alow you to experince this flow of energy as part of you and learn
to understand it .
this energy is generaly not a thing of science but does take form in our material world
as bases of all there is
-like I have ruined several video recordings cos I thought bad about what I saw
and so the image part disintergrated on the t.v. screen and got on tape like that ,
ruining that too.
or same with the computers controling a car I used that got a beating too. the finest
parts of the computer electronic circuits are easly hit.
well but what annoys me most is when you watch t.v. and you see all those fine minds
studying bioligy and talking how
animals and plants work and came to be on this planet.
they got it most wrong they are made as paterns on other energy levels
(where zen comes from) and than grow on the normal plane of reality as they
are ment to do
sure dna is part of that , but it did not happen just like that .
it was done on an other plane of reality (where zen comes from)
or those learning about the universe looking throught teliscopes
or worse making complicated calculations, its maybe out there in that way but thats not all .
those are just result of blocked of senses and minds based on numbers text and
words a complete waist of time perhaps only created to fill up space in a place
we ended up in some how not beeing able to know other wise (for most).
as I some times get anoyed with all this zen and yoga seen as life style while
in fact it is such a deep and major thing .

Pilar Teishin said...

Thank you for sharing, Anonymous.

On this particular site, I speak mostly with an orientation to Soto Zen, which has its own ideas, passed on through a few people, about these things. But ultimately, what I love best about Buddha himself is basically the last thing he ever said: (paraphrasing,) "Be a lamp unto yourselves."