The past month or so has been so busy for me. First I travelled throughout Peru and Panama for two weeks, went to Chicago for a week 2 days later and then drove down to Virginia to move into my new apartment (which took about 4-5 full days). Now I am all finished, and as a reward, my new apartment just happens to be a 3-minute walk from my favorite Buddhist Sangha. This is exactly what I needed after a month full of external stress.
It had been a while since I had partaken in this weekly meditation ritual. It has also been a long time since I put out a meditation post. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to put out some new content because I was so excited to get back.
For those of you that have not read my previous posts, a Sangha is a Buddhist community that allows for the weekly practice of both meditation and ritual. In my case, the Sangha is a place to have a weekly meditation practice with others on a Sunday morning, similar to churches in the Christian or Catholic faith. It is also much more than that. With so much demanded of me as an entrepreneur, I find that this weekly practice is the undoing of much of western culture. In Japan, many businesspeople will build a small wooden hut in their back yard so that for a few hours each week, they can just sit there, detached from all possessions and appreciate the most basic parts of life. I see this in a similar way.
I also think it is valuable to give up some of your precious time to a meditation practice. When I think about how much work I really could get done during 2 hours of Zazen, it seems insignificant when compared to the sometimes life-changing perspectives I can acquire during the meditation. For instance, during some of the longer sits, I am able to go back and explore different aspects of my childhood and reframe them in a more positive light. I know this may be getting a bit esoteric, but I think most people who have meditated for more than an hour in a day may understand what I am talking about.
Another thing that is powerful is the rituals we perform. The first, and perhaps most important ritual is the meditation facing a wall. This is a tribute to Bodhidharma, who is famous for meditating in front of a cave wall for many years on end. This is a way to practice humility, and understand that meditation is not about fancy golden temples and robes, it’s actually one of the simplest things a person can do. Just sitting and focusing on the breath. The second most important ritual is the walking meditation. This serves as a way to break up the sitting meditation and is a very important part of the practice. Instead of walking at normal speed, you actually walk as slow as possible. You take each step very mindfully, rather than rushing through it. This has taught me to slow down every once and awhile and enjoy the process rather than just the destination. The third ritual we perform is the bowing. There are very specific times you need to bow. The most important bowing is done immediately after you enter the room. My priest calls this a “speed bump” because it forces you to slow down and make the transition from the outside world into the Hondo. We also bow as a dedication to those who came before us. This has taught me honor and respect, attributes that are very important to a student of Buddhism.
I am just sharing the meaning that I get out of these rituals, but to you it could be entirely different. One of the main things with Zen is that you aren’t really taught things directly, you just simply do them until you find the meaning. This was definitely the case with me and I am thankful for that journey.
If any of you are curious about forming a deeper relationship with meditation, I would highly recommend seeing if there is a Sangha in your area. Any major city is sure to have one, and even some smaller towns might have one as well. Although it may seem like you don’t have time for it at first, I think you will be glad you did it!