What is Mindfulness and Zazen Meditation?

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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

— SHUNRYU SUZUKI

So, first of all, what is mindfulness?

While it is rooted in Buddhism, mindfulness is not a religion or an ideology. Mindfulness is a practice that reveals our true nature through awareness and acceptance, so it is not in conflict with any belief system and can be applied to every aspect of your life. It is available to anyone and everyone.

Mindfulness is being present in this moment in a nonjudgmental way. We bring awareness to this moment with compassion and lovingkindness. That means we accept what is here for us and resist the urge to label it good or bad.

We are often stuck in the past or the future. We obsess and mull over over perceived missed opportunities, poor word choices or perhaps even keep reliving happy moments. Alternatively, we anxiously plan tomorrows schedule, stress about things that could potentially go wrong or anxiously await the day when life is going to all perfectly fall into place. YET we miss this moment, the very moment that we are alive. 


So, this is why meditate - in order to cultivate mindfulness, to connect to the now in our body with loving kindness. There is no need to force or achieve anything in meditation. We simple sit and allow ourselves to be in the present moment. Creating this space through meditation we can then later more easily return to a mindful state with deeper awareness and compassion. 

Like a calm lake reflecting the moonlight, mindfulness is seeing things clearly. When a pebble is thrown into the lake and causing ripples and waves, they are like our thoughts and ideas and judgments, they cloud and distort. To calm back down we don`t jump into the lake to retrieve the pebble, we let the pebble settle to the bottom of the lake as the waves and ripples subside. Similarly, when we meditate, which we will do over the weekend, thought will inevitably come up. We recognize them and simple let them settle or pass without further agitation and return to a calm mind. This happens over and over! We all get distracted, but we do not need to feel badly, we simple accept it, let go of the thought and start over. 

Zazen meditation is at the very essence of Zen since Buddha obtained enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. Therefore, we teach the three elements of Zazen - posture, breathe and a clear mind, thus laying the foundation for a meditation practice. Other guided mindfulness meditations, breathing exercises and a dharma talk on self compassion will round out a deeper understanding of how to bring mindful and compassionate awareness into your daily life.

Zen master Suzuki ryoshi said that in the beginner`s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert`s there are few.  This moment, right now, is so full of possibility! If you choose to continue your meditation practice after the retreat please remember to keep your beginner`s mind to stay open and fresh!

Here is a wonderful short program on Zazen, the meditation practice of Zen Buddhism. I recommend watching if you are even a little curious! It sheds light on the beauty and dignity of Zazen. Tell me what you think!

Opens in another page, NHK on demand.

Zazen Meditation during our Retreats

  • If you've never meditated before, don't worry.

  • For those who would like guidance or to learn what to expect we will have a short workshop on Friday evening to show you the basics.

  • We will have both sitting and walking meditation sessions.

  • Meditation instructions will be provided in English.

Find out the dates of our next retreat here, usually Spring and Fall.