Why is it so difficult to get started with a meditation practice or to begin practicing with a sangha? I wish I had a good answer for that, but I don’t. Before I started practicing zen meditation, I had read many books on zen. I loved Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Naht Hahn. I poured over books by Philip Kapleau Roshi and John Daido Loori. And as much as I enjoyed the idea of meditation and mindfulness practices, I just couldn’t seem to get my energy up to actually sit down on a cushion and begin. The years passed by until, at age 40, I at last found the will and energy, to sit down on the cushion and begin this deep contemplative practice. The benefits of doing so were almost immediately apparent. Why did I wait so long?
The Buddha taught the Eightfold Path and one of those pathways is Right Effort. Energy for practice and in practice is also one of the paramitas or perfections. It is often difficult to overcome the habits of a lifetime that keep us from committing to being a part of a sangha or establishing a consistent meditation practice. We aren’t used to it. It feels foreign to just sit down and be still. And we’re busy – with jobs and children and shopping and holidays and family get togethers, and on and on. But the Buddha and all teachers of the Way emphasize the importance of finding the energy and putting forth that effort to begin – to set aside that time each day to let go of the daily troubles and the daily workload and develop that stillpoint that comes with consistent meditation practice. Zen Master Seung Sahn, who started our school of Zen, said, “Just do it!” So, I invite you all to sit down and clear your mind. Then, when you are ready, join our sangha and find support for your effort in our sharing together.