Follow your path


The Path of Zen

The way of zen is simple, we simply sit down in the midst of life and really pay attention. It is the key to everything and sitting here we discover that what we need to know is already within us and anything we are looking for can be revealed on this cushion. There is nothing more we need to do and zen teachers like to say that the answer to everything is zazen. While this is true, it is also true that this practice of learning what we already know, is going to go on for awhile and there is a life that we will live, places that we will go, and things that we will do.

If you’re reading these words, then you were curious about something and that curiosity brought you here. This being the case, you are therefore on a spiritual journey. As it turns out the spiritual journey does not take place in some other world but it takes place right here in this one. So you might be wondering what it is we’re doing here, which seems an obvious question when a person arrives.

Simply put, we are following a way that people have been following for 2500 year which has an outstanding track record of helping human beings find what they are looking for. It’s a simple three step process, based on the realization that each day we do these things, we grow.

First, we make a sincere effort to practice mindfulness. We sit down and meditate like the Buddha did and when we get up, we try to keep that awareness going. Neuroscience tells us that doing this actually loosens our neurons, but we go mostly by feel and just notice that our habitual thinking fades, and makes change possible. So the second thing we do is learn something new, since we are going for depth, we learn about the nature of the world and things that might be revealing a deeper truth. We call this Dharma study, which sounds like there could be a test, but in our world there are 84,000 Dharma gates, or opportunities to find the the meaning of life, which leaves a lot of possibilities and there is truth in everything. Finally, having a flexible mind and learning about possibilities won’t make any real change unless we put some effort into intentionally doing things differently, to practice doing our everyday life in a different way, even though it seems to be against the grain of our habitual ways. Crucial to this, is our openness to other people and their feedback. Our perspective is always from the inside so to have a complete view of ourselves, we need to get some perspective from the outside. So it really helps to have friends who support our effort to grow. A community of people who have the intention of supporting each other’s efforts is called a Sangha.

Although we talk about a path of zen, it is not a linear journey from point A to point B, there are many paths and it is more like wandering around in a geography of practices. Sometimes there is a clear order to things, sometimes there is no order at all. If you are new to this path, it can be helpful to have a kind of map, some sort of explanation of some of the practices that we offer here. Knowing that there are 84,000 dharma gates, we will narrow it down by offering three doorways you can explore by three areas of practice and see where they might lead. Meditation, Learning, and Community. Of course, all of these opportunities contain elements from all three, but we have to start somewhere. If you are still curious, and want to learn more, feel free to click on any of the gateway images to learn more about some of myriad the ways you can explore your practice at Santa Cruz Zen Center. Or, you can follow your curiosity as it arises by clicking on any of the words to the left. Zen is, after all, a journey that reveals itself.