The practice of Zen meditation is multi-faceted and actually not easy to put into words. Each person must find their way in this practice on their own. Simply put, this practice places our lives in the very forefront of humaness – of being fully alive right here, right now. Zen Master Seung Sahn says that Zen is understanding our true nature. I find it interesting that he did not say “finding” our true nature – but to “understand” our true nature. Everyone always thinks they are going to “find” something or “get” something from practicing meditation. I certainly thought I would “get” enlightenment or “find” peace in my life or “become” more compassionate etc., etc. But when I really looked at myself during meditation, all these “gettings and “findings” and “becomings” were really about continually propping up my ego. Even becoming more compassionate, although a very noble motive, was more about letting everyone see how compassionate I am. “Ah, there she goes, Rebecca, the Mother Teresa of Topeka. Isn’t her compassion for others just amazing?!” “Ah, look how serene and Buddha-like I am after achieving my great enlightenment after only 2 weeks of sitting! I am the greatest, aren’t I?!”

Very funny stuff! Even in the midst of really wanting to help, my ego just keeps rearing it’s ugly head.

So instead of continually wanting to get something, I realized this need to continually let go of wanting something. Let go of this insistent need to be the best, the smartest, the prettiest, the most enlightened, the coolest, the friendliest, the most compassionate and on and on. And then letting go of the idea or concept of an ego at all. When there is no ego to protect, then openness appears. Judging yourself and judging others disappears – how could compassion not appear? The Great Way is not difficult just don’t make good and bad. This is understanding, not finding.

– Rebecca Otte