Meditation (Part 1)

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Let me be honest. Maybe I’m not the right one to tell you something about meditation. But indeed I’ve been dealing with meditation over 20 years. But more in a theoretical way. I have read a lot of books about meditation and especially about Zen-Buddhism. I admit that this is paradox, but I assume a lot of you guys out there “meditate” in the same way. Let me tell you now why I have had problems with meditation and let me show you a way to meditate practically.

At first I had physical problems with meditation. I learned Zazen, that is the name of the sitting meditation on a Zafu in Marburg in a meditation group (according to Deshimaru). A Zafu is a cushion stuffed with Kapok or filled with other eligible materials like buckwheat-shells. You sit on the Zafu with crossed legs, your knees shall touch the floor, that you have a stable position. By the way the so called “best position” to meditate is the full lotus seat.

But my physical problem already began in the easier first mentioned position. I’m all of 189 cm (6ft 2in) and my muscular legs aren’t very flexible. O.K., some say that pain is the “salt in the soup of Zen-meditation” but my pains have never felt very healthy. On the other hand my legs felt regularly asleep at the latest after 10 minutes of the 20 minutes of the meditation. At that point I wasn’t very relaxed or without thoughts and present, but I was full of sorrows how I could stand up to take part in the walking meditation (Kinhin), which all participants always did together. So I tried to tense or to move my legs a little bit to wake them up. I was very sad at that time that meditation seemingly wasn’t the suitable spiritual practice for me.

Secondly I had spiritual problems with meditation. As a Christian I wasn’t comfortable to fall on my knees in front of a Buddha statue, to recite sutras or to make vows to Buddha, or to say the so called 3 refuges : “I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the Dhamma for refuge. I go to the Sangha for refuge.” how it has been practiced in other meditation groups I attended. The only “refuges” I could take as a Christian were: “I go to Christ for refuge. I go to the Christian doctrine for refuge. I go to the Christian community for refuge.” – if at all. When I spoke these Buddhist refuges in the chorus with the others I always only did it with my lips and not with my heart. I always had the song “You are my hiding place” (that means “God”) (cf. Psalm 18:3) in my mind. Hiding place is the same as “you are my refuge”. So what to do not to become a hypocrite?

I wanted to keep the advantages of meditation at all costs without betraying my Christian faith and without cheating the Buddhist community. The advantages I experienced through meditation are the following:

You cultivate an inner silence. By sitting you learn to penetrate the mix-up of your thoughts. And often thoughts consist of worries, sorrows and bad memories. They hamper you to become or to stay present in your current daily life. They are like a second layer over reality. They are often like shades who darken your view and constantly comment everything what or who you see with arising past emotions, fears or prejudices. Meditating means to step back and to look through this process.

In my opinion the target in meditation is not to avoid thinking, but to be able to become free of our thoughts to live a holistic life in the presence. How often are we involved in a serial of thoughts and emotions, which determine our actions in the current moment and our reactions to other people and to totally new situations in the now, which we try to handle automatically according to old pattern which may not fit in this current situation. (To be continued…)

3 thoughts on “Meditation (Part 1)

  1. Have you read ‘Open Mind, Open Heart’ by Thomas Keating? I’ve found it amazing in cultivating a christian meditation experience which incidentally has existed for so long however has been lost somewhere along the way.

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    1. No I haven’t. But his name sounds familiar. I was on amazon and discovered that he wrote a lot of deep books worth reading. Thanks for your reference!

      Gemma, you are right. There is an old tradition of Christian male and female mystics which especially has been getting astray in the Protestant church. I first discovered them after my engagement with Zen by my studying Protestant theology. Thanks a lot, Gemma. All the best, Volker.

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