Zen is a path of awakening. Awakening to ourselves, to the world around us, and to the mystery of being alive.
The Zen tradition is rooted in the ancient teachings of the Buddha, enriched by encounters with the sages of China, and also through additional meetings with cultures around the globe.
The path of Zen is not about leaving the world behind or getting something we don’t already have. This path of awakening “simply” requires stopping our incessant busyness and our fervent searching long enough to be able to receive what is already abundantly here. Easier said than done, of course, and so this is where the Zen practice of meditation comes in.
When we sit in Zen meditation, we’re not trying to rid ourselves of thoughts nor are we cultivating exalted states of mind. We’re practicing the surprisingly difficult work of being who we already are – cultivating a basic friendliness toward ourselves and our experience. Over time, the discipline of meditation can help us grow in our capacity to appreciate the aliveness of each moment, regardless of the content.
But the point of Zen is not about perfecting the art of sitting still. The real-time complexity of our everyday lives is where our most challenging (and rewarding) practice takes place. Zen does not offer a magical escape from the ups and downs of our lives. However, as we learn to meet what is arising with curiosity and compassion, the quality of our ordinary lives is transformed. Even in the midst of the flood of events, emotions, and thoughts, we find something genuinely trustworthy. We stop looking somewhere else and begin to participate more intimately in the truth of this life we already have. Right here, in these exact circumstances.