What Is Zen?

Zen is the practice of awakening out of the dream of form and living in the present moment fully.  One of the great Zen masters, Shunryu Suzuki in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind says:

There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen.  Even though you read much literature you must read each sentence with a fresh mind.

To do this, you need to go beyond the mind.  Meaning, you are no longer lost in thought and instead very alert and connected deeply to this moment without the mind labels we usually have.  This Zen state is often referred to as ‘no mind’.  This does not mean you can no longer think.  But it means you are operating on a level above or beyond thought. This is the state of consciousness that Zen practice is.  This is Zen.  It is not achieving something, it is experiencing life in the Now – connected to the formless essence that is in everyone and everything.  You can experience this state of Zen or “Presence”  Now.   There are a number of ways to do this, one is to sit up straight, pay attention to your breath. Suzuki says “To take this posture (zazen posture) is itself to have the right state of mind.  There is no need to obtain some special state of mind”. He says this because our concepts or ideas of what presence or Zen or enlightenment is, is not it.  Direct experience is.

From a Q & A with Eckhart Tolle from his best selling book The Power Of Now:

It’s Not What You Think It Is

You keep talking about the state of presence as the key. I think I understand it intellectually, but I don’t know if I have ever truly experienced it. I wonder – is it what I think it is, or is it something entirely different?

It’s not what you think it is! You can’t think about presence, and the mind can’t understand it. Understanding presence is being present.

Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.

I had to wait for quite a long time before a thought came in.
Exactly. As long as you are in a state of intense presence, you are free of thought. You are still, yet highly alert. The instant your conscious attention sinks below a certain level, thought rushes in. The mental noise returns; the stillness is lost. You are back in time.
To test their degree of presence, some Zen masters have been known to creep up on their students from behind and suddenly hit them with a stick. Quite a shock! If the student had been fully present and in a state of alertness, if he had “kept his loin girded and his lamp burning,” which is one of the analogies that Jesus uses for presence, he would have noticed the master coming up from behind and stopped him or stepped aside. But if he were hit, that would mean he was immersed in thought, which is to say absent, unconscious.

To stay present in everyday life, it helps to be deeply rooted within yourself, otherwise, the mind, which has incredible momentum, will drag you along like a wild river.

So Zen is the practice of being in a state of intense alertness.  Within this state you connect to the life energy that provides wisdom, renewed health, peace and other miraculous benefits.  Looking at the state of many people individually and collectively, as well as our planet – a new state of consciousness is needed.

This site will hopefully help some get inspired to take up the practice of living in the present and living Zen.  For some a shift occurred naturally so this state is their predominant state of consciousness, for others it takes some effort to continually bring your awareness to this state.  There are a number of practices or techniques you can do throughout the day that will help you stay present.  There is also more formal meditation practice that can be done on a daily basis.  We will explore these here.

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