[Submitted by David Mata, Kyoseikan Dojo in Grand Rapids]
On March 9th and 10th we conducted a zazenkai, a short Zen retreat, at our dojo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Meido Roshi came from Chicago to sit with us.
Zazenkai is a time to meditate as a group for a night and
morning. I experienced it something like this: you sit for what seems like hours, counting your breaths in unison
with everyone in the circle of meditation. You sit with your eyes open but not
distracted by the activity around you. You are not asleep but present. Then
suddenly the wood clappers sound as the timekeeper (jikijitsu) leads the group in
walking meditation. You walk quickly behind the timekeeper and walk as they
walk, slow down when they slow down, speed up when they speed up. And when they
return to the circle, you find your place and sit to return to that place of
My experience with zazenkai was extraordinary. I came into direct conflict with my
own mind, fighting off the thoughts of the past and future. I was uncomfortable and unaccustomed to such
rigorous discipline of the mind and body, not being able to think about
whatever I wanted and not moving until the time was up. Meido Roshi reminded
us that what is most important is not the traditional forms, not the bells and the style and
the clothing or the schedule. It is the reason behind all that: to be with and become one with
our existence, moment-by-moment. So often we get caught up in what has happened to us or what will
happen in the future that we forget to life for today. When you walk, you are
walking. When you read, you are reading. When you work, you work. Our life
becomes so much less if we let the days pass by in anticipation or dread of
what is to come. One purpose of meditation is to help us refocus and find that value in "now".
But meditation is also not limited to this. Another important aspect is the recognition of others. We are not in this world alone. There
are many others, equally caught up in their own selves and sharing a need to recognize the
life around them. Not only are we to live in the now, but live with others. At zazenkai I
learned that, in sitting with others in a circle and counting my breaths, I was
in sync with these people. Life is not about me; it is about everyone.
Through the practice of
meditation you can begin to take this mindset to every part of your life. It
will help release those tensions that build up inside from things like guilt,
anger, sadness, or anxiety, allowing you to live more at peace and joyfully.
short experience of practice I did not solve all my own internal problems. However, in this
overnight meditation I was given a path to live by that I seek to follow and
it has been very helpful emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you apply
yourself and commit to becoming more one with others and more conscious of the
present, you will reap the benefits.