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Zen Meditation: The Practice of ‘Non-Attainment’

“All the activity of Buddhist practice is for the purpose of developing our intention until it becomes our vow, and our intention and our life are one.”  ~ Norman Fischer

Zen is the spiritual practice of non-attainment. The Buddha taught that, “There is nothing to attain, there is nothing ever lost.” That each of us without exception possesses “basic goodness”, and that never changes; it is never lost. Our basic human nature is “enlightenment, goodness, compassion, connection and love”. Practice is the realization of what is so and not so much about what we think is not so. We cannot see our basic goodness because it is covered over by years of conditioning which has convinced us that we are lacking something that if only we could find it, then we will be happy. What follows is the belief that somehow the spiritual practices will improve us, by helping us find what is lacking.

Zen Meditation, what the Japanese call “Shikantaza” (Just Sitting), is about creating a space within our awareness to allow for life to show up in any way it does, in order to see what we keep missing. When we meditate, we are not attempting to attain some “transcendental consciousness”, or perhaps more happiness, better peacefulness, or become someone different. We are not pursuing any idea of “more, better or different”. When we meditate, we “just sit” with ourselves just the way we are, with our lives just the way it is, and with the world just the way it is and the way it isn’t. Our awareness is focused inward, developing our inherent ability to “pay attention”, like a surgeon’s knife, cutting through our conditioning and preventing us from seeing the whole picture; cutting through our habitual unwholesome responses to our conditioning. Eventually, like “waking up”, we see something we have missed for most of our lifetime. Once discovered, we continue to “just sit” with it, until we become intimately familiar with it once again. At this point what we imagined to be an “object” a “destination”, transforms right before us until, we realize that what we are observing is “us”. What follows is what Christian mystics called, “Communion”.

Meditation is the means by which we learn to let go of our chasing after external things as the solution to our discontentment, and return to presence. Meditation is a “way-of-being” in the world, on and off the cushion. Devoted meditation develops a means toward meeting daily challenges by returning to the depths of our original nature; finding refuge in our “true-self,” rather than some person, or some experience, or some-thing. When we mediate we step into the immenseness of life, detaching from limited and restricting points-of-views and desires.

Zen meditation is the practice of wholeheartedly embodying our lives, realizing our infinite and unlimited ability to meet any challenge no matter the circumstance or situation; an actively engaged responsive presence to our life before, it is “gone, gone, forever gone”.

I love you.

Seijaku Roshi is the founder of The Center for Spirituality and Contemplation, and spiritual director of Pine Wind Zen Community, 863 McKendimen Rd., Shamong, NJ. He is a Zen-Buddhist Monk, parent, author, Life Coach and Abbot. Learn more at PineWind.org.  

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