Friday, September 28, 2012

Oh Yeah, That Zen Thing

Another thing I've been thinking about lately is my Zen practice -- such as it is. As many of you know, I was a member of a Zendo for about five years when I lived in New York. I took vows, got a Dharma name, attended regularly and did my best to practice diligently.

After I moved to New Jersey, I meditated less. And when we moved to London, I pretty much let go entirely. I've tried sitting here a handful of times. I went to a local Buddhist center once or twice, but it's not in the tradition I know and it didn't really click with me.

I've written before about my attempts to maintain my practice and continue sitting. Lately, I've been thinking that perhaps the Zen way to handle this is to simply realize that my practice has shifted. I don't mean to give up entirely, and the intention is important -- the spark that leads to a more mindful, gentle existence. I'm still practicing in small ways -- checking in with my breath as I sit on the tube, tuning in to each moment as I watch the streets around me for photographic opportunities, trying to be kind and keep my cool, even when slow knots of tourists block my path on the sidewalk. So maybe I'm not sitting for lengthy periods. Does  that mean I'm failing, or just that my life is in a different place now?

Maybe rather than wondering whether my practice lives up to my ideas, whether I'm "doing it right," and feeling guilty about the ways in which it falls short, it's enough to see the ways in which I am still practicing. I don't mean to justify laziness, but Zen is not an external thing that I have to achieve. It's here already. It's with me all the time. It is me.

(Photo: Brick Lane, on Saturday.)


  1. Sounds as though your practice right now is a moving meditation, mindfulness and breath and a kind intent as you go about your life. This is as beautiful and sacred in its way as the sitting, or so I have come to believe. xo

  2. Lazy is the last word I would ever associate with you. This is the deeper wisdom you're describing. You are noticing which is what sitting practice is meant to cultivate.

  3. You do a walking practice, perhaps, among other things. One of my dearest, longest-in-years-friends has been sitting every morning (almost) for most of his life now. He is one of the most beautiful men I know, will ever know. But he has had his moments, believe me. I think he would agree with you.

  4. I totally get it. I've never been able to develop a habit of meditation though I have attempted it many times in my life. sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of it, the sitting for long hours trying not to be in this world. I mean, we incarnate in order to experience and learn for our personal betterment, right? I know that meditating can bring us closer to the source but walking in the woods or paddling down a river or gardening does too. And mindfulness. is meditation the only way to achieve mindfulness? I try to just 'be here now'. I suppose I do a sort of meditation when I am working on my art...drawing or making models or filling molds...though it's more of a narrowly focused attention rather than trying to achieve emptiness. So, no guilt needed. It sounds to me like you are still fully in your practice.

  5. HOPETOWN ST. The woman walking looking centuries old in her being and fashion- great photo! The practice thing- if it feels good , do it. Walking meditation seems to be better suited to you, or a ride down the is too short to not enjoy every waking moment. I feel like I am here by accident- here at this big party somebody is throwing ...I am not on the clean up committee nor am I footing the bill...just here having a great time, not even wondering who or what is behind the whole thing. It's just cool and like walking in Norway- where every walk is uphill and strenuous and utterly gorgeous.