Zen practice itself is very simple and yet utterly profound and capable of changing a practitioner’s life. Being totally attentive is at the heart of the practice by sitting in an upright posture that enables you to sit absolutely still and then watching each breath as it comes into your body and then as it leaves. It is a very practical way in which anyone can sit still in silence.
Why would anyone want to do that?
A great student of world religions, Mircea Eliade, asserts that at the heart of all world religions is the death of the ego. This refers to the self made superficial self that we tend to identify with. This ego rests on externals and demands a tremendous amount of energy to sustain it. Because it relies on externals there is always the anxiety that it will be lost. Spiritual practice then is orientated to seeing beyond this external self into our own true nature. As the Buddhists put it “To see our original face before our parents were born.” The Christian Scriptures describe God as saying to every human” Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
What are the effects in a person’s everyday life?
To sit regularly in this way is called Zazen and it has the effect of enabling you to be more attentive to every moment of your life. This means that we actually live our life. To experience life we have to be in the present moment and when we are dominated by the ego we are so often either filled with anxiety for the future or trapped in guilt for the past. Zazen in bringing to the present moment takes away our fear.
In liberating us it also permits us to live. not out of our heads, but from the deep centre. The Buddhists call this Joriki. Live our own inner truth that enables us to live a life of compassion to all others in our created world.