Zenways

In October 2018, I attended a course to learn to teach meditation and mindfulness. In October 2018, I attended a course to learn to teach meditation and mindfulness. The course was run by an organisation called Zenways, more specifically, the course was run by one of its members, Seán Collins. The course lasted for a week and I knew, at the end of it, that things would not be the same as before. A major change happened during that week I spent in Forest Row where the course took place. I felt like I gained tons of confidence in myself and in what I could do from then on. Of course, little I knew back then, that the journey would be long (actually the journey, I feel, never ends) at times it can feel arduous and other times it feels enjoyable. I was basically starting to realise a little bit more about myself and how the mind functions. How it, the mind, had power when it came to perceive things in and out of myself. The mind says that something is good, then I act accordingly. The mind says that something is bad, then I act differently. Throughout the life, the mind has built a storehouse of good things and bad things and one acts in accordance to this storehouse, attracted by the good things and repulsing the bad things. So, what changed during that week? It is very difficult to describe it exactly in words but, one way to put it, is that I found the neutral place. The neutral place is a mental awakening that sees things as they are and not as they are determined by the conditioned mind, by the storehouse of good things and bad things. It is a clearer way of seeing things, unfiltered, direct.  New potentials seems to be at the horizon.

In the weeks to come after the course, emotions started to pour. It seemed that things inside me started to disentangle and were being freed somehow. As they freed themselves, they would manifest in tears and, I would find myself crying and crying. No sad crying, no happy crying either, just crying. Beautiful and liberating. I could easily observe all of this outpour in a way which I would define detached. It was definitely happening but not happening to someone in particular, it was just happening. And, of course, it goes without saying that when one becomes detached from the inner turmoils, they don’t get so caught and so enslaved by them. I have learned with time that when I am not attached to what it is going internally, I don’t suffer, I can see what is going on without being overwhelmed by it. I guess that I started to have a first hand experience on how meditation and mindfulness worked in practice, I am not sure, I am just guessing here. Before then, I had lots of theory in my mind and by practice meditation regularly I was experiencing the array of benefits that meditation can offer; feeling calmer, being kinder, being more patience and so on. Now, I was starting to enjoy a different way to relate to myself and to things and/or people that were around me.

Going back to Zenways now. I found out about Zenways because some time before I read a book by Daizan Roshi called Practical Zen: Meditation and Beyond.

I remember I enjoyed the book very much and got attracted, among other things, by the fact that Daizan run an organisation or Sangha, a community where people practiced Zen Buddhism, I’d wanted to join that. I had never explored Buddhism before and I knew very little (nothing) about Zen either. I soon wanted to know more about them, Buddhism and Zen so after the course in Forest Row, I joined Zenways. My guess is that my ‘opening’ which occurred during the week of the course, lead me straight to go to the source of what I believed caused this opening in the first place. Perhaps a sense of gratitude, curiosity, excitement.

I joined Zenways and wanted to meet Daizan as soon as I could so I went down to the dojo in London, Campberwell, and finally met him. I went to speak to him in a private meeting which in the Zen tradition is called Sanzen. In these meetings, Zen students can tell their teacher about their practice, normally, but not only that. I remember that all I could tell Daizan was ‘thank you!’ or something along those words. I just wanted to convey my gratitude for the ‘shift’ or ‘opening’ that happened just a couple of months before.

Daizan, myself and my wife Amy on our wedding day

From that moment onwards, I got more and more involved with Zenways and their activities. Becoming a member of Zenways, means becoming a Zen student. Becoming a Zen student, in this case, meant to study Zen or to practice Zen under the supervision of Daizan. That is what I did, I started practicing Zen which meant, in my case, having a daily meditation sitting or two daily meditation sittings. Also, I started reading the vast Zen literature which has really been helping me to understand or, try to understand, where or what all the Zen masters of the past and present point at. It does feel right to say that all this practice, reading, applying mindfulness and so on started to develop a Zen mind or no-mind, whatever that means.

Also, little by little, I realised that Zen can be practised in an endless number of ways. All activities we find ourselves involved in, can be used to practice Zen and, possibly, the first and still to me, most important lesson has been that, when doing something, do it totally, become the action, be totally available, wholeheartedly. By becoming one with the action, one is no concerned with what is going on in the mind (likes, dislikes, resistances and so on) but they become just concerned with what is necessary to do. As I heard many times, we break down that wall of separation which makes us feel separate from the universe, makes us feel a separate entity, a ‘struggling’ entity, a ‘fighting’ entity, a tiny entity that is about to be crashed by the universe. Zen, in my own understanding, helps us to see that this split, this separation is just illusory, it is created by our own mind, by the storehouse of ‘good things’ and ‘bad things’. In reality, we are part of the moving universe, we are that universe in fact. The self and this idea of a separate self is an empty idea, no real. It stays together because of our habitual way of thinking about ourself and the rest. Little by little, this understanding or knowing becomes experiential but, I still have to work hard at times to bypass the habitual mind which do not allow me to see this Truth. It is a constant reminding myself of this, moment to moment, no split, no separation, just acting as required by the situation.

This is in a nutshell, the training that I have been doing with Zenways. There is more than this but for me at the moment, this is the core teaching/practice. Also, in these years with Zenways, I realised why it is called Zenways. The reason is very simple, there are many ways to practice Zen, not only one. Zen can be practiced whilst walking, working, running, speaking, looking into a mirror, working with a Koan…… Zen is no separation in the many different ways we manifest our presence in action. And then, of course, Zen would not allow any definition of Zen……

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Riccardo

My name is Riccardo, I am from Italy but I have been living in Cambridge for more than 20 years. I am a qualified Meditation and Mindfulness teacher, a Zen student and a trainee Junior Zen teacher. I have a degree in Philosophy and a Master degree in Communication Studies. Main hobby, cycling.

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