Journey with Zen page 2

Zen means 'seeing deeply' and 'thinking deeply'. In this sense the Zen path is a profoundly spiritual path. It enables us to see the wonder of the world and all its beauty.

Over the years a number of parishioners have come to know of my interest in Zen meditation. At first they were puzzled about this.  A Catholic priest who practices Zen!! 

Never heard of this before!!  Of course, I don't give sermons on Zen, and I don't have a shaven head, or wear black robes! (Yet!) but it does influence the way I see things. It helps me to see more deeply into the Gospels and the life of Jesus. It might be stretching it a bit but it could be said that Jesus practised Zen!   He was so very much  in contact with the world around  him. The parables are wonderful examples of this in that Jesus uses the ordinary to reveal the extraordinary!

I was once asked by some  of my parishioners if I would teach Zen meditation.  I was surprised at this request, and a little uneasy because I see myself as a beginner and still a novice! Also, it's not the usual  thing you would expect to be happening in the parish  hall! After some persuasion I decided to give it a go. I had no idea who might come to this other than the few people who had asked me to do this. On the first night the hall was prepared like it's never been before. I put out about a dozen chairs (no meditation cushions yet) in the hope that ten might  turn  up. There were candles, incense and fresh flowers. It's important  that the atmosphere is conducive to meditation. To my complete surprise thirty turned up wanting to experience meditation. These thirty or so continued to come once a week. It was quite daunting for me as I am no expert, but just someone making the Zen journey as part of my spiritual life.

The people that came on that first night were of all ages and many were there I never imagined would be interested.

After a short introduction and explanation there was an exercise in the practise of the mindfulness of breathing. To focus on the breath is the bedrock of Zen meditation. This practice of watching the breath brings stillness and awareness. The other meditation that we have practiced was called the Metta Bhavana. I have written about this in a previous article called the Eye of the Heart. Metta Bhavana means the cultivation of loving kindness, or friendship. In this meditation we cultivate positive emotions towards others and  ourselves. It is a wonderful practice of connecting with ourselves and all living beings in a spirit of love and friendship. As the session progressed there was a clear sense of serenity and peace within the church hall. What made it powerful was the connection that each individual had with the others in the room. Silence prevailed for the session yet the silence said a thousand words.

The meditation course ran for six weeks and was a great success and a unique experience for my parishioners and me.  It is good to meditate regularly alone, but it's powerful to share the experience with others.

Thus, the journey of Zen is one that many people experience in their everyday lives. Some are aware of it and others are not. Yet, this is the very nature of Zen, in that in essence it is formless. It is living the moment and not dwelling on the past or the future to come. This for me was experienced when I meditated with my parishioners in that nothing mattered except for the moment. All my worries, anxieties were left elsewhere and I simply enjoyed the present and I hope that my parishioners also shared that same  experience!

I hope to be able to introduce some Zen to my new parish of Our Lady Of Pity as part of the year of faith called by Pope Benedict.