Two weeks ago I went to my first session of Zazen meditation, the Zen Buddhist form of meditation.
The group who run it are only a small group of seasoned practitioners. Matt, the man who led the session, kindly gave me a walkthrough of zen meditation half an hour before the whole group arrived. He elucidated the position to take when meditating, and tried to get me into a comfortable half lotus position. He also took me through the rituals of the meditation session.
Soon after the rest of the group arrived, and we numbered only six in total. After a brief introduction we made our way to the meditation room, and completed the very brief rituals before sitting down and assuming a meditative pose.
Here I should highlight the style of meditation practiced, which was perhaps the only thing I found surprising. From literature I gathered that a basic way of meditating is through counting breaths. Yet, what this grouped practiced and apparently what many others do, is, instead of counting breaths, to concentrate on assuming correct posture. In essence you focus on your torso and its position and uprightness. Matt had stressed not to adopt a taught uncomfortable position, but one that felt natural. On the other hand it was to be mentally challenging enough that I would have to focus on my posture to maintain it throughout the meditation session.
The art was to make the torso and its posture a beacon that would take you away from ones wondering thoughts. Like slipping in and out of a dream, a thought would enter your mind and you would let it drift away from you as you would refocus on your posture. This would happen time and again, as you undulated between fleeting thoughts and your posture.
The mediation itself lasted an hour, which was divided into three segments. The first 25 minutes was sitting meditation, followed by an intermission of 10 minutes of walking meditation before regaining the seated pose. It is actually quite a challenge to sit still for such a long period of time. After the meditation session we all had tea together and discussed a few meditation related topics before reading through a small lecture that had been held in Eastern Europe.
I personally found the meditation session to be very instructive, and found that practicing meditation as part of a group was much more revealing than practicing it on my own. I would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of trying it as a way to relieve tension and to experience a little bit of ‘spiritual calmness’.