Sunday, June 17, 2007

Zen and Picasso

Last Sunday, I attended the local Japan Fest at the N.O. Museum of Art. I was there with my Zen group. We had a small meditation dojo set up in the modern art section, and I made a point of bowing to a Picasso during one of the sittings.

I was taken by surprise when I ran into the former bishop of the local LDS congregation, who just happened to be showing two of his children around the museum. I haven't darkened the door of the church in something like six years, and the former bishop in question is a friend and a cool guy who isn't the kind to get bent out of shape about nice Mormon boys being involved in other metaphysical traditions. He was genuinely curious about what goes on during a sitting. Nevertheless, I felt a little awkward for the first few minutes of the conversation. I suppose that awkwardness came from the Zen compartment of my mind coming directly into contact with the Mormon compartment of my mind.

That encounter led me to think about my personal history with Zen and Buddhism generally. I took up the practice of meditation sua sponte by ordering a course on CD, when things were pretty wacky in my home in late 2003. I picked up a copy of the Dalai Lama's "An Open Heart," and, for the first time, thought, "wow! This Four Noble Truths thing is my own private truth." It really hit home. I went to the local Zen temple to see how I was doing with my meditation posture, and I liked my experience there enough to hang around. Zazen meditation opens my mind and lets the negativity, pain, and sorrow, float away, if only for a few minutes at a time. I've had a few fleeting momens during which I felt no boundaries and somehow an interconnectness with the larger universe around me. Also, there is no preaching, doctrine, or dogma--and the anxiety, guilt and shame sometimes resulting from those (for me, anyway)--involved in the practice at the local temple--instead, it's all about the practice, which is all about posture and breathing. Whether one holds any particular theological beliefs is completely irrelevant to the endeavor. I like the radical simplicity of that approach to metaphysics. Anyway, it works for me.

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