One sunny Sunday morning, in the quaint town of Surry, Maine, I had stumbled upon an opportunity to experience the art of Zen. On this fine morning, I was to follow a kind yet modest lady named Nancy on a gentle walk through the old growth forest to find the location in which we would practice a quiet meditation. The morning sun felt as warm as her heart, and after a brief introduction, I knew that we shared the common goal of finding an ever-deeper connection with ourselves, and with the universe.
Through the dense tree cover, the meandering trail eventually guided us to a carefully crafted building made with the very timber that surrounded us. While birds sang, frogs peeped, and leaves rustled in the wind, we entered the meditation room with a bow and proceeded to take our seats. By way of experience, today was about discovering what it means to “be Zen.”
Inside we sat, along with several others to participate in one hour of silent meditation. It was during this time where our spiritual connections expanded in depth, and intuitive insights became illuminated.
Perhaps the most profound insight to come to me was a deepened understanding of the nature of time itself. As an object of the mind, its essence is relative. It became clear to me that the “time” we abide by with the passing of each day is merely a mental construct that we project onto our reality. By shifting awareness to my heart center, linear time as it is commonly known and experienced began to dissolve and I found myself immersed in what felt like “the eternal now.” In this space, there was no thinking, no rationalizations, no concepts. Simply a being-ness, in which to rest. With no effort, my breath flowed in its natural rhythm, and an easy feeling of contentment was abundant.
As a seeker of spiritual connection, I’ve explored countless disciplines that aim to balance the mind, body, and spirit. Whether it be yoga, Tai Chi, sensory deprivation tanks, or binaural beat meditations, every modality certainly contains its own elements that are valuable. One fundamental goal of Zen is to embody that which is discovered in the journey of meditation. From rigorous self control, practice of meditation, and personal exploration the embodyment of Buddha teachings results in an expansion of the compassionate nature of the self, for the benefit of others. Zen is one path of many that lead to the same ultimate destination, and it is here, now, in this moment. To me, the experience of Zen on this day showed itself to be a valuable tool in the toolbox used to build the metaphorical house of enlightenment.
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