There are enough zen centres. We need more zen corners.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Over the years I have explored how to maintain a zen Buddhist meditation practice in the middle of a busy, wandering, and sometimes chaotic life, often without regular access to a zen group or zen teacher—is it possible and how can you do it? The answer is YES and you do it by creating as many zen corners in your life as you can.
A zen corner is any place of zen Buddhist practice
Zen corners are small, unobtrusive, sometimes solitary, and generally impermanent. They are a way to bring more awareness to our lives. Anyone can learn to create one: a place to settle, to let go of the ongoing chatter of our habitual thoughts, and help us to find a home in the spaciousness of our true nature.
You can make a zen corner anywhere. I have created them:
- on the floor in my children’s bedroom while they drifted to sleep
- at sea in a small boat crossing the Indian Ocean
- in my living room and the living rooms of countless friends
- at political demonstrations
- in the office
- outside on beaches, in gardens, parks and forests.
Sometimes I meditate alone, more often with other people. Sometimes it is informal, a few breaths at my desk before making a phone call. Sometimes it is with other people, sitting for several hours in a room in someone’s house which has been temporarily turned into a meditation hall.
Of course, zen centres are important places offering sustained regular formal meditation practice, meetings with a teacher, study and regular retreats. But many of us spend much of our time at work, caring for our families, commuting and attending to other demands. There may be little opportunity to go to a zen centre, or there may not be one nearby.
The awareness that we develop through zen practice needs to be able to seep into our lives, not just be something we do only on our meditation cushion or in retreats. So we need lots of zen corners too.
Mari teaches regularly with the Zen Group of Western Australia. She has recently returned from Jakarta, Indonesia where she worked at an oceanographic research centre. She is now based in Sydney.
To contact Mari, click here.
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