It was a missed turn that had brought me to the Clearwater Zen Centre on an early afternoon. Meditation classes had been on my list of things to do when I had travelled to Clearwater but somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life, my aspirations became clouded and it wasn’t until I had chanced upon the dark blue board which proclaimed the name of the centre in bold, white letters that I made plans to attend the classes.
It took me a month and a half to finally open the rustic door of the centre to allow the incense filled air to envelop my body and all my senses and as I stood hesitatingly at the threshold, I was greeted by a pair of kind blue eyes. I was asked , in whispering tones, by the white haired, balding man if I was there for the program. I nodded affirmatively. His name was Sensei Lawson Sachter and he said that he usually visited the centre 3-4 times a year and today, he was going to give a talk at the Centre. Terms such as Kinhin( walking meditation), Zendo( meditation room), Dokusan( private instruction) made it’s way into the conversation and I felt a little overwhelmed
The Sensei explained the technique of holding the right hand by cupping the left hand and allowing the thumbs to join together to form an oval shape. I straightened my back and sat in a relaxed manner as the Sensei instructed me to. I was led to the Zendo or the meditation room by Ken, the Zen Master and I sat down cross legged on a cotton brown,padded cushion with a round pillow between my legs. I stared at the wall and slowly closed my eyes. I allowed myself to quieten my thoughts. The room was eerily silent at first. It was the first time that I had walked into a room full of people and did not hear even one word spoken. The meditation continued for about 4 hours and it was only interrupted pleasantly by the clanging of a bell which gently reminded us of the passing hours. We walked in a circle during Kinhin or walking mediation. I was very conscious of my breath and the rough carpet beneath my feet.
After the first two hours, Ken asked me to organize the candles in a basket he had brought for me and to discard those candles which could not be used for service. I quickly performed my duty and wondered why he had asked me to do this act. Something deep inside me told me not to question and to keep performing my duty. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone vacuum the floor while another person had a glass cleaner in his hand while he cleaned the glass window. Once I had organized the candles in the basket and had discarded the damaged candles in a white plastic bag, Ken asked me to clean a few shelves adjacent to the kitchen.
I quickly cleaned the shelves with a rag soaked in cleaning liquid. I felt light and purposeful. I felt like I was being disciplined. After cleaning the Zendo, we returned for another one hour session of quiet Zazen meditation. Sensei Lawson came to the Zendo after his Dokusan( private instruction) sessions in another room. He bowed to the golden image of the Buddha and sat in the middle of the room to start his discourse.
He spoke about Buddhism and how the religion was focussed on experiential truth rather than on dogmas. It would not matter if tomorrow someone said that Buddha did not exist. Buddhism was about experiencing the awakening on an individual level so that each person could feel enlightened and achieve Boddhisatva. “There is only this moment of teaching…live this moment, breathe this moment…let go of this business and revel in this moment…open your heart…do not conceptualizer and analyze…just be…”I felt light hearted as I listened to him.
This duality of our mind did tend to create disease in me just like the Sensei had said and I felt relieved to hear him say that I only had to breathe deeply and calm my mind and open my heart and let go of all the ideas in my head and be in the moment
I breathed deeply and felt the soft, white light of the Buddha’s teaching penetrate my soul and illuminate the dark corners of my unhappy and worried being and I decided to let each moment be my teacher so that life’s lessons could be revealed unto me and I could feel bliss and have the strength to face my regrets instead of feeling overwhelmed.