ZaZen: Finding Peace with Pain


Steve:   Hello, Buddha….

Anatta:   I prefer to be called Anatta. It means, a “Not-Self” being.

S: Ahhh….a “Not-Self” being….A-NOT-A

A: Like a tree.

S: Beautifully expressive…

A: A Not-Self can’t have a God. If there is no God, there is no war; the absence of ego and ego-derivatives…A bliss.

S: How often do you meditate? 

A: Everyday, every breath. One needs a clear mind to observe all things.

S: I agree. I find some of my best meditation and thinking and observation comes on long walks, listening to music….

A: You mean by listening to the sounds of nature. We are nature. 

S: I love how you practice your philosophy…what are some of your favorite readings?

A:  History, science of the human mind, and Buddhism. I love reading about plants as well.

S: How have you arrived at your philosophy/way of living?

A: I sat for a very long period of time. In it, I see my life clearly. I work, eat, exercise, and I meditate. My life and my practice are one: one habit.

 S: How did you achieve that?

A: I have to meditate just like I have to eat. Sleeping is a break for the modern body.

S: I sleep well….but I have yet to integrate all so well….

A: Meditating is a break for your mind.

S: How long was your “long” meditation to put your life in perspective?….Frequently, my meditation will lead me to sleep….Sometimes, I use my mantra to help me fall asleep….

 A: There is no such thing as life “in perspective.” You see your life clearly. There is no “perspective.”

S: Isn’t seeing your life clearly putting it “in perspective?”

A: You sleep because your body needs a break. Your noisy mind also exhausts your body. One must “sit meditation”, to give your mind a break…

S: But as a writer I need to plumb the depths of my mind and my heart….

A: When you write you write; When you rest you rest.

S: Sometimes when I mediate, my mind wants to create….haiku, poems, chapters, scenes in plays….

A: Let it be.

S: But, if all is one, why do we differentiate the processes?

A:   It will go away.

S: What will go away?

A: Any thoughts, perceptions.

S: How long do you meditate for each day, when you sit to meditate?

A:   In the morning, and at night for 30,45 minutes.

S: Immediately upon awakening?

A: Yes. When you dream, your mind was at work.

S: I always dream, and I dream frequently each night, and in many colors….

A:   Then you must wake up and rest your mind. It needs a break; we have a very noisy mind.

S: You’re telling me! Mine is like a symphony!

A:   Yes, but even in a symphony there exists silence; rests.  Maybe more silent notes than we can hear.

S: I agree. Rest notes are a key part of music…

 A: When I fall asleep during meditation, I stop and go to sleep immediately

S:  Sometimes, I meditate myself to sleep.

 A:  No. When one practices ZaZen, one is already awakened.

S:  What is ZaZen?

 A:  “Sit” meditation.

S:  So you don’t practice meditation laying down?

A: I find ZaZen most difficult yet most natural. Lots of pains when practicing ZaZen. That is why I do it.

 S: What kind of pains? 

A: Back pain, leg pain, body pains of all kinds.

S: Do you sit cross-legged on the floor?

A: Burmese style; not cross-legged.  Sit evenly on 3 points. Middle point located right in the middle of your body, on your tailbone. Search for half-lotus “sit meditation” techniques on-line.

S: I will. But I don’t understand why one would willingly want to be in pain during meditation?

 A: Ahhhhh. Bingo! Now you understand it.

S: What? That pain must accompany true meditation? 

A: Yes.

S: But why?

A: Why not?

S: That is not an answer…

A:  Pain exists, right?

S: So does lack of pain…

A: Yes; both exist. It comes and goes uninvited.

S: Why not choose lack of pain as the preferred state of existence?

A: Don’t we do that everyday already?

S: Not always, although preferably.

A: Why?

S: Isn’t lack of pain less stressful? Shouldn’t meditation be designed to reduce stress?

A: Why do we attach to something that does not belong to be us?

S: What? The body?

A: Comforts and discomforts come and go by themselves.

S: So then why encourage discomfort by meditating in an uncomfortable, sometimes painful pose? Why can we not choose lack of pain?

A: You sit and watch them kindly, no judgment intended.

S: My mother lived with pain most of her life–from polio, from arthritis…

A: Ahhh…She had great powers of concentration to overcome her pain…Why suffer twice?

S: But, isn’t it part of the human condition to avoid suffering? Is it humane to choose to suffer? Is it rational?

A: That is why we suffer twice as much.

S: Why?

A: Clearly, there is pain in our body from time to time.

S: Yes.

A: So why encourage it? There is pain in the mind, created by the pain of the body.

S: But doesn’t the mind seek to be pain free, and doesn’t the mind seek for the body to be pain free? Isn’t that rational?

A: If we don’t judge the pain in the body, there is no pain in the mind. So we can only suffer once, which is pain in the body

S: I’m not talking about judging it; I’m talking about feeling it….

A: Yes, bodily senses. 

S: Do you mean to train the mind NOT to feel the pain your body feels? Here’s how I look at it: 1. there is pain; 2. the body feels the pain. 3. the mind is sensing the pain the body feels; So, are you saying that the  more you live with the bodily pain, the more your mind gets used to it?

A: Find peace with it.

S: And you find peace with pain by willingly enduring it during meditation?

A: Next time try this: when an itch arises, don’t scratch it.  Pay attention to it as if it is a masterpiece in a museum. Feel it.

S: Mind conquering matter?

A:   No

S: Mind coping with matter?

A: The point is to pay attention to our discomforts, as you would pay attention to everything…See it as impermanence…

S: But, if you want to integrate your meditation into every part of your life, to give your mind a rest, then why add another variable–pain–into the mix?

A: We are trained to dislike discomforts.

S: Yes. Isn’t that a natural condition? To seek to be pain free?

A: Why does one hate?

S: Difference. Fear.

A: It is all the same. We hate and fear pain because it is different.

S: So, we should seek out pain the way we should seek out people of different cultures and backgrounds?

A: All that is discomfort…

S: Embrace what makes you uncomfortable?

A: If you are trained to find peace with your own discomforts, yes;  you can find peace with all discomforts that you encounter externally. Because the discomforts are not yours…

S: The discomforts are not yours?

A: Discomforts come and go.

S: So you don’t own them?

A: No. So why judge them? Just watch your discomforts..the Non-Self. That is what I do during my meditation. I observe my discomforts…very kindly and politely. Detachment.



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