What is Zen? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of Zen is:
1: a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation
2: or zen : a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort
But is that it? Is that a satisfying answer? Certainly, not. Replies to the question: “What is Zen”, by Zen Masters of old, have included answers like:
- “Three pounds of flax”
- “Dried dung on a stick”
- “The sound of one hand clapping”
None of these answers really help.
Zen is the art of being here now; being fully present; completely in the moment; unaffected by subjective thoughts.
Zen is the practice of releasing expectations, and letting go of egocentricity, like:
- “Will I win?”
- “Will I lose?”
- “Is everyone going to like me?”
- “Is no one going to like me?”
- “Is this going to hurt?”
- “Are we going to have fun?”- and ultimately,
- “Am I going to live or am I going to die?”
Zen is the supreme art of letting go, which paradoxically, makes it the supreme art of holding on. Have we lost you yet? Hold on (or let go).
Rather than getting into the history of Zen, the Siddhartha Gautama, the Three Major branches of Buddhism (Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana), and the numerous other schools and sects of Buddhism, let’s keep it simple:
Think of that which does not think.~Dogen
At Sage Counseling, we teach the principles of Soto-Zen. Soto Zen is the leading school of Zen Buddhism, initially founded in China and imported to Japan in the 13thcentury. It is a slow, down to earth approach; commonly known as “farmer Zen”. No magic. No frills:
Just sit; breathe; be present.~Shikantaza
The practice of Soto Zen is used as a matrix of self-discovery by pursuing clear mind. The practice of clear mind is to be able to see things as they are. We will teach you how to sit; give you modifications on how to sit; give you alternatives on how to sit; give you tools for practice of clear mind. We will train you; encourage you; collaborate with you as we move forward collectively; as one body of seekers—and finders. (Because seeking, and finding arrive together!)
Zen Buddhism is not a religion. It is a philosophy. It is a way of looking at the world.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer used to say:
“If we change the way we look at things, the way we look at things changes.”~Wayne Dyer
At Sage Counseling, we will sit with you as we “harness the vigorous horse of the mind.”
There will be books to read, questions to ask—and answers to find in those questions. Join us!