I started meditating a little bit before I started practicing yoga over 15 years ago although my first couple of attempts didn’t go according to plan. I remember after I’d finished one session I went into the kitchen and lifted the lid up of the bin thinking it was the toilet – I did realise my schoolboy error before ‘anything’ happened but it freaked me out a little so I gave meditation a really wide berth until about 5 years ago. ( I think it hindsight this potential toilet disaster had more to do with my state of mind at the time rather than anything else!)
Anyway I got back on the cushion around 5 years ago after reading this book called Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. I had bought something on Amazon and I got caught up (like everyone does) in the ‘if you liked that book you might like this one’ section and Brad’s book was shouting at me ‘buy me buy me buy me’ So I bought it and I’m glad I did.
Like Yoga , Meditation comes in various guises and it just so happened that this practice was the ‘Zen Buddhist’ method and it promised absolutely nothing which I thought intriguing to say the least. Most if not all meditation & yoga practices are promising something, be it a healthy body or a quiet mind but zazen ( zazen is the zen practice of meditation) promised ‘nowt! Yikes – so I jumped in.
So fast forward 5 years , no in fact let’s just fast forward 3 years to 2013. By this time I’d gotten in touch with Brad via email and 83 emails later I finally persuaded him to come over to Manchester to teach a couple of workshops (this year will be his 5th visit to our beloved rainy city). In 2014 I really went the whole hog and took the ‘precepts’ with Brad to become a fully paid up member of the Zen Buddhist society.
Brad is a complete dude. No joke. He’s not your average Zen Master , he also happens to play bass with US hardcore punk band zero defx – he’s also written 5 books on zen and a couple of novels too – this guy is no slouch. He’s also got his own documentary – which features yours truly.
Last April I took myself all the way over to Mount Baldy Zen Center on the outskirts of L.A. for a 3 day Sesshin with Brad. A Sesshin is an extended meditation that includes sitting meditation, walking meditation, chanting, oryoki (a formal, meditative way of eating), Dharma talks by the sesshin leader and a meditative work period. Mount Baldy is absolutely stunning it’s full of rocks and trees and I love love love rocks and trees – the views aint too shabby either.
It’s interesting for me to see how this zazen practice that promises nothing is slowly moving ahead of my yoga asana practice which gives me an all singing all dancing flexible body. I guess the yoga laid the foundation for the zazen – they work with and for each other. These days with little Agnes Boo my 20 month old daughter keeping me busy sometimes I don’t have time to fit both zazen & yoga into my schedule of Peppa Pig, going to the park and preventing Boo from writing on the walls of her bedroom , so I’ll skip the asana and just do the zazen.
In the words of Kodo Sawaki (Brad’s teacher’s teacher) ‘Because zazen takes you out of the world of loss and gain, it should be practiced’.
And so I do it.