Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.
Zen Buddhism is a meditative practice which is designed to increase self-awareness and compassion. It is not a religion as such, with a set of beliefs and dogmas to be accepted, but rather a way of approaching life and a way of experiencing life, together with a set of practices to help the individual achieve an enlightened (nirvana) state. A Zen meditation is a mind-body encounter, in the sense that there is an emphasis on ritual physical movements (bowing, chanting, sitting, walking, etc.), but the primary purpose of such activities is the quietening effect they have on the mind.
The Zen experience is one of 'sitting loose' to life, and it is therefore in sharp contrast to the somewhat 'driven' left-brain orientation of the West, with its emphasis on rationality, logic and control. It appears, therefore, to have much in common with the Inner Game ideas of Tim Gallwey. And the role played by the Zen koan (e.g. "What is the sound of one hand clapping?") as a puzzle to jolt the individual into a fresh way of looking at things appears to have a resonance with the concept of lateral thinking in creativity.
Key Elements of Zen Buddhism
It is difficult to describe the essence of Zen Buddhism in a few words. However, at the end of Christmas Humphreys' Zen Buddhism (Unwin Books, 1961) he tentatively identified some of its more practical prescriptions. In summary, these are:
- Roar with laughter Don't take yourself so seriously.
- Be deadly serious Everything you do (washing up, the job interview, etc.) is equally important/unimportant.
- Undress Get rid of all your mental baggage: conventional beliefs, social rules, etc.
- Look for synthesis of thought e.g. If you are young, study the viewpoint of the elderly.
- Learn to objectivize Check out your convictions, ideals, beliefs, etc. Are they valid?
- Meditate for a few minutes each day. Learn the value of silence, and learn to listen.
- Encourage your intuition Look for it, believe in it, trust it and use it.
- Expand your understanding till it hurts Take in more and more, and so be able to show compassion for your troublesome neighbour.
- Stop rushing about Focus on this, here and now - there is nothing else.
- Relax Don't strain, for nothing is worth it. Sit loose to life. Laugh and laugh still more.
- Walk on!
For further information about Zen Buddhism see:
- Frequently Asked Questions from alt.zen
Zen Buddhism by Richard Hooker
Zen Buddhism Primer
Zen Buddhism WWW Virtual Library