Sometimes things are beautiful, but not true— other times, true but not beautiful. The care I received and practice I encountered during my day of guided Chan was both; beautiful and true.
Although I’ve practiced meditation for over seven years and have spent most of those years at monasteries, I benefitted greatly from practicing in this lineage, at the Chan Meditation Center in Fremont.
Travelling from a distance, I arrived early. From the moment I stepped in the door, I was greeted warmly and shown around by the kindhearted volunteers who—among other things— accommodated to my diet, an act which comforted me and allowed my full participation in the silent midday meal.
Each section of the day was explained with simple clarity, allowing us to drop in with the distinct feeling that we were being guided by skillful hands.
The care and warmth of the instructions felt particularly healing— especially the emphasis on “relaxing the body” in order to “ease into meditation.” Being a longtime Yoga Asana and Tai Chi Chuan practitioner, I appreciated the acknowledgement that the body must be comfortable in order to become still— a theme that we returned to throughout the day.
I came with the intention of opening to and exploring this practice lineage, to get a taste for what the monastic practice might entail— and I can say with certainty that it has wet my appetite. Already I am delving deeper into Sheng Yen’s work and beginning to understand his vision for an updated, open-hearted practice that encompasses both scholarship and practice— both rigor and softness.
So as I walked away with a stack of Sheng Yen’s books in hand, after eight hours of cultivating Chan, I felt that I had received a gift; something utterly human that acknowledges our unique and inevitable struggles, while at the same time offering a space of solace, warmth and clarity. Chan— it seems to me— is an encouragement, a chance to put down what part of our burden we are able to, and instead take up this simple practice of looking, seeing and caring.
17 March 2019
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