Zazen is the practice of sitting upright and still together, best in the posture familiar from Buddha statues worldwide. Without formally joining any religion I have practiced zazen regularly for almost forty years. Throughout it has become increasingly obvious to me that zazen is the one practice that most directly addresses the problem of human suffering. That’s a huge claim, I know, but my experience bears it out and that is why I am now in zen sales, soliciting effort not money.
I strongly recommend zazen as a tool for use within existing doctrines, or in none. For the sake of lively peace, including your own, I urge you to test zazen thoroughly and I offer my assistance.
I find three main reasons to practice zazen:
In other words, if you want to do good, feel better, and lose your delusions, then zazen is a practice for you.
- Zazen clears the mind for helpful action, even in the face of disaster.
- Zazen settles emotions, even in the face of disaster.
- Zazen points directly to absolute reality, beyond all disaster and anxiety.
If the effects of burgeoning population and technology, for example nuclear war and artificial sentience, or the disasters of your own old age, sickness and death, are of any concern to you, then I particularly recommend zazen. Zazen is, among other things, a fire that cooks big problems, rendering them digestible.
I have a problem, and you can help: You have a problem, and I can help. My problem is that due to a quirk of autism I often feel profoundly isolated from other people. I am autistic, but that in itself is not a problem: Profound isolation is a problem.
Here is how you can help: First let us be quiet and present together. This is the practice of shared quiet presence, and zazen is its most potent form. Zazen is the only place I am definitively not isolated from others.
Here is how I can help you: I can be quiet and present with you and your problem. Often clearing the mind itself resolves a problem. There can be a certain amount of emotional fire to go through, but I promise that zazen aids resolution of the most daunting troubles.
Sometimes zazen is easy, but often it’s tough. That is why we help each other, and why, though sometimes we sit alone, we also sit together.
There’s not much more to say here except that in addition to the language of zen I speak the languages of science and of God. Science is a matter of clear observation and respect for the well-tested, with a cycle of question-answering and answer-questioning. Likewise for the best of spiritual practice. My own practice resembles Zen Buddhism, but at root I simply practice clear observation and doubt-fueled respect for the well-tested. As for God, some people, including me, have a strong instinct to relate to the entire universe as a You at times, and others less so.
I often say that zazen is an almost perfect form of prayer: It is an abject surrender, coupled with personal sacrifice, effortful service, and an utter innocence of demand that God behave in any particular way. Even a child’s prayer cannot surpass it. No one owns God, and one can use the word without violence or credulity.
My job in zen sales is to be a catalyst, to lower the barrier to lively peace. Here then is an offer of gentle engagement with zazen: I will happily share a single breath with you. I will also happily sit upright and still with you, and help you find the value of sitting a little more than is strictly comfortable. I ask for and expect nothing from you, but I am grateful for the gifts of your presence and effort.
If you have a big problem then I offer to cook it with you in zazen. The only cost for my services is not-grim effort. Remember, I bring my own problem to the meeting and your presence helps me. I may have experience but I have no rank: I am an autistic person fighting for life, and for all liveliness throughout space and time. If you are looking for someone with whom to test what is after all a shared practice, then I offer my presence.
So what shall it be? If you don’t think you can do much about global or personal disaster then that sounds like despair to me, and if your current course doesn’t even address the problems then that sounds like sleep. Look for the cause of your suffering in your avoiding zazen. Zazen weans us from the craving for joy, and brings the profoundly welcome. It helps greatly to sit together at times with people you dislike.
NOTE on autism: I see human life as if through glass. Autism as I know it is a crippling social disability, coupled with unusual ability to observe dispassionately. Because of my disability I can never relate to you like an ordinary person. I can fake it briefly, but that does not break the glass. However, because of my ability I can report what you may never see on your own, and I can hold it to the window. Your lively peace sustains me, so that we are all like cells in a living body, interdependent and each important.