We joined together in CC 102 Thursday evening to participate in Zazen Meditation, led by Sensei Catherine Anraku Hondorp, a Soto Zen Buddhist Priest and heal practitioner. Anraku Hondorp Sensei is also a Buddhist Community Religious Adviser for The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.
Zazen, or seated Zen, is a meditation that is deeply rooted in the Buddhist spiritual tradition and “the very heart of Zen practice.” In her introduction to the participants, Anraku Hondorp Sensei spoke about trying to find “the middle path” in our meditation. She emphasized seating positions and finding one that was most comfortable. To maintain balance and keep thoughts away, she suggested folding your hands and making sure the thumbs were “gently touching” to bring yourself back. Once we settled in, Sensei Anraku Hondorp tapped the Kesu Meditation Gong three times, and we began.
After I participated in the Buddhist Meditation last semester, Zazen was a bit of an adjustment. My mind wandered a number of times and the noise from outside was distracting. Sitting still for fifteen minutes was really tough and I kept fidgeting around to find a comfortable place while focusing on what was in front of me. It’s also hard meditating with your eyes open, opposed to having them closed in Buddhist Meditation and Hatha Yoga. However, the controlled breathing soon grounded me.
Sensei Anraku Hondorp then had us find a certain spot on the ground and, as “our eyes soften,” slowly move our head up and take in our surroundings. This transition reminded me not to strain my eyes so much and instead slowly blink. We easily forget this when we stare at technology while doing homework.
The last technique we did was slowly moving around the circle in sync with our breath. In or out, we would take a step forward and hold the position until our breathing changed. We continued this exercise until we returned to our seat.
Once seated again, we took in our surroundings, folding our hands together and bowing as we concluded the meditation. This final step was the best for me because it involved movement and paying close attention to your breathing.
Even though I struggled in my first attempt at Zazen Meditation; it was still an interesting experience. I would definitely give this practice another try to improve upon it and unwind from my busiest day of the week. Trying out different practices helps with mindfulness and allows us to escape the chaos that can be Smith. Through meditation, we can develop strategies when we need to breathe for a few minutes. It’s easy to forget where we are, but Zazen and other meditative practices help us center ourselves and find balance and peace.
Author: Kristin Rivers ‘16