First let’s challenge the idea that we are, actually, doing the same thing again and again, when we meditate.
This question comes up often amongst practitioners of Zen. Even those who have been training in zazen for years will sometimes seem to “plateau,” interpreting their experience as flattening out, hitting a wall, etc. And for newcomers, this is often the most persistent, nagging concern, when they do not see immediate results. It is easy to say, “just sit,” in the face of this and all other discouragement that arises, but it is also too facile. We want to encourage raising this point again and again.
Our new Thursday evening program at ASZC, “ZENtalk,” is focused on this question. We interview various folks at different stages of training in Zen, from the rank newcomer to old-timers, as well as the occasional guest who may have no experience at all with Zen, but may be pursuing another, related path of interest. The “show” is featured online on our Facebook page and archive on our YouTube channel, as well as streamed live on Mixlr.
We feel it is increasingly important, at this time and in this cultural milieu, to allow the general audience interested in Zen to hear from people from all walks of life, and diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, profession, etcetera, as to why they practice its strict form of meditation, zazen. Zen is mainstreaming in America, but it is still not understood, let alone practiced, by anywhere near a majority of our fellow citizens. Without first-person testimony as to the uniqueness of Zen’s stripped-down design for upright, “quiet illumination” meditation, it is likely to be lost in the smorgasbord of popular meditations currently on offer in the public realm.
Bill Murray, mentioned in last month’s Dharma Byte in relation to his performance in “Scrooged,” also starred in an iconic film that seems to be in constant rerun status on TV, “Groundhog Day.” He wakes up, day after day, to the same day — marked by the iconic, but irritating, “I Got You Babe” by Sonny Bono — on his radio alarm. But he is the only one who is aware of this anomaly in the ordinary passage of time. As a consequence, he becomes liberated from his obsessive approach to doing what he is supposed to be doing — namely reporting on Punxutawney Phil, the groundhog, an assignment he feels is beneath his dignity — and finds that he has the time to do the many, more meaningful things he always wanted to do, including play jazz piano, and mastering ice sculpture. He also finds the time to fall in love with, and to woo, and win, the love of his life.