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Zen and the Art of Meditation

 The traditions of Buddhism are varied and diverse. Perhaps more people are
familiar with the following two forms of Buddhism (at least here in the West) than
any of the others: Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. When one thinks of
Tibetan Buddhism, one perhaps most often thinks of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual
leader of the Tibetan branch of Buddhist religion. When one thinks of Zen,
however, one might get a little confused…

 Zen is perhaps most well known for its koans, e.g., What is the sound of one hand
clapping? A koan is a statement or question that defies a rational answer and calls
for a more intuitive approach. Often, koans are the focus of one’s meditative
sessions, often for years for devout Zen monks working with difficult and
perplexing koans given them by their spiritual leaders. A koan might also be used
to by one’s spiritual leader to test his or her spiritual development. The point here
is that one can take a question or perplexing puzzle and utilize this as the basis for
meditation.

 Zen is also well known for its dependence upon, perhaps more than any other of
the Buddhist sects, meditative practice itself. For the Zen practitioner, meditation
is not something that one engages in but occasionally but rather is something that
one is to be engaged with at all times in every aspect of daily life!

 On the Zen paradigm, one allows his or her mind to be absorbed with the task at
hand at any given moment such that awareness of things past and the future
dissipate into the “now.” In fact, for the Zen Buddhist, there is no such thing as a
past or a future, only the present or the eternal now.

 One example of Zen Buddhist meditative practice is what is referred to as walking


meditation. In walking meditation, one takes a stroll for a given time, most often
in a serene and relaxing natural setting and becomes absorbed in the act of
walking itself such that one’s awareness is situated only upon that which is at any
particular moment. For example, one may choose to focus upon awareness of the
body during this type of meditation, becoming absorbed into its motions and
rhythms during the walk. Or, one may choose instead to focus upon the breath,
the ground in front of him or her, the sounds of nature surrounding him or her, etc.

 The key contribution of Zen Buddhism to meditative practice is that one is made
aware by Zen of the possibility of perpetual meditation such that one can enter
into the state of meditation by simply becoming absorbed into the mundane tasks
of daily life and living in the eternal now.

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