Peter Ford, 1
Interview with Peter Ford
I’d like to hear about the vision behind GoSit.org, but first I'd like to have a greater understanding of your feelings and ideas about meditation in general. I am assuming you yourself meditate. When did you first become interested in meditation and what were the circumstances?
It’s been a long time, nearly 40 years since I first became interested in meditation. I remember getting a book on yoga the summer after my first year of college in 1970. The next year I joined a hatha yoga club at college and began practicing yoga regularly. As I remember, we always did a few minutes of meditation at the end of a session, and I think I got the idea that meditation was at the heart of yoga.
About January of 1972 after dropping out of college, I remember coming across the book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I would say that’s been the most influential book I’ve ever read (and reread many times over the years). I guess, like many of my generation, I was upset with and confused by our conflict in Vietnam, and was searching for a way to fit into society in a more rational and ethical way.
I think the government’s lies and mistakes in Vietnam and the blind loyalty of many Americans made me much more skeptical of everything in American society. On the other hand, Shunryu Suzuki’s message resonated with me in every way. An approach to life with “Zen Mind” allowed me to start to feel more comfortable with society, and to feel like I had an approach that would allow me to better understand reality. Anyhow, since 1972 I have meditated very nearly every single day.
Other than Suzuki, through his books, I have never had a “teacher” or felt the need for one. Still, over the years I’ve read other good books on Buddhism & meditation and attended a few weekend trainings, including one week in Suzuki’s former training monastery in Japan. In 2001 I began a training session at a center in Massachusetts. I became very dissatisfied with the method of instruction because it seemed based largely on hypnotic suggestion.
I found it cult-like and very deceptive, so left the training in the middle. That experience, along with Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, plus my interest in web design led to the idea of an independent meditation center guide on the Internet where users could share their experiences at meditation centers. With enough input from web users, I hoped fellow meditators would have a better chance of finding appropriate training sessions for themselves.
I have had some interesting discussions with people involving the whole idea of teachers, masters, and gurus. I wonder if you could share your take on why some are so insistent that a teacher is necessary. Also, I am interested in hearing more about your daily meditation practice. Is it a sitting meditation? If so, how long do you sit and in what position? Also, is it primarily non-doing, or do you have a specific self-guided approach that you are fond of?