Zen and Me

Today “Zen” is now an American word. It’s not well-defined yet, perhaps, but in common usage it denotes being “in sync” with something; a state of harmony between subject and object. It also smacks of flaky California New Age Gurus. Still, the basic implication is not all that far off. If you look a little deeper into the American Buddhist “scene,” you will find that even among professed Buddhists, Zen has a mixed image. Some see in it militaristic discipline and orderliness to the point of obsession, while to others it is a tradition of iconoclasts, with leanings towards spontaneity and the artistic.Some even see it as a license to do whatever they want, thinking that is what zen spontaneity means. As it has developed in America, Zen does include a little of all these things, for better or worse.

For me, at the heart of it, Zen is about experiencing the wonder and mystery that fills ordinary, mundane existence, but is usually hidden from our sight.

Zen practice points to a deep awareness of the here and now, and in this it bears some resemblance to the common usage of the word”zen.” Although this awareness sounds great to many people, when it comes down to it, they often don’t want it to include the boring, vexing, irritating aspects of daily life.