by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~

Meditation in the big city can sometimes be a daunting task!  More and more cities are creating more spaces for relaxing, keeping you cool and de-stressing in a city setting.

The practice of urban zen helps us temporarily let the physical world go so that we can begin to see ourselves as we truly are – spiritually enlightened beings.

Zen and its Practice

The term “zen” lies at the heart of the Japanese culture, a school of Mahayana Buddhism. Zen is a practice that goes back to the “Awakening” of a man named Siddhārtha, the Buddha from 2,500 years ago in India. The practice of Zen meditation or “Zazen” (座禅 – za meaning sitting, and Zen meaning meditation, in Japanese), is the core of Zen Buddhism and is a way of vigilance and self-discovery practiced while sitting in meditation. It is the experience of living from moment to moment, in the here and now. It is through the practice of Zazen that Siddhārtha, the spiritual teacher, later became known as Buddha after becoming enlightened, under the Bodhi Tree.

“Urban Zen-itation”

Zen meditation in a busy place such as a city, is exactly where it can be put into practice the best. The experience of living from moment to moment, in the present (here and now) makes this meditation the greatest challenge but reaps the greatest rewards. Finding peace among chaos, (or a big city) is the wonderful reward of “zen-itation”.

“Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.”   – Zhuangzi

Letting Go. Fold your hands gently in your lap and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Then just sit. If you have never meditated before, you will probably feel as if your mind is full of thoughts. Don’t try to stop the thoughts, just watch them. Imagine that you are on the bank of a river and that your thoughts are the river going by. Don’t try to stop the river, just watch it. Within a week, you will see the river begin to slow down. You may become impatient, or even bored. That’s okay. If you find yourself complaining, just watch the thoughts pass by. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes. You may find that you fall asleep because you are so relaxed. That’s good because, in many ways, you have begun to let go. Continue at this pace and each day allow just a little more time for yourself to meditate. Doing this allows you to relax and forget about time.

“Zen, can be summed up in two words~ not, necessarily, so” – unknown

Your subconscious mind is the key to dreams. It holds, locked away, the desires and inspirations that you seek to find. What do you see? With each exhale, what is brought to the surface? Like the deep sea, we hold on to our treasures, only to be brought up by a gentle stirring…. Expand the breath in your lungs as you press deeper into the supporting sand. Exhale and realize. Exhale and discover what is rising to the surface. Now, relax and breathe. Relax and let go.

“Mind your thoughts, as they become your words. Mind your words, as they become your actions. Mind your actions, as they become you.” – Buddha

Top 10 lessons from my Zen Buddhist teacher

1. A thousand-mile journey begins with just one step.

2. Whatever happens always happens on time.

3. A good teacher opens the door for you, but you must enter the room by yourself.

4. The goal in life is to die young, but to do as late as possible.

5. Don’t be afraid to go slowly. Be afraid of stopping.

6. Unhappiness enters through a door that has been left open.

7. No one returns from a long journey the same person they were before.

8. Your home is where your thoughts find peace.

9. The man who moved the mountain was the one who began carrying away the smallest stones.

10. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Follow a path and see where it leads…