Seikan Cech, 2

Interview with Seikan Cech


Thank you for those details. I understand. You speak of structure being essential. Are you speaking of an imposed structure, or the structure that nature has provided? What I am particularly interested in, is how the structure that follows this intent in the mind to meditate makes a difference. Why is the body not structure enough? And perhaps you could include further explanation of this that you wrote - "we discover the body and usually meet with pain".


As you point out, the intent to meditate first arises in the mind, as one of our many many ideas. Our thinking minds are indeed like factories for having ideas, enabling us to imagine, plan, remember, interpret, analyze, and so forth. In effect, we cultivate states which are out-of-body and out-of-time. These of course can happily feed on themselves, which is why it is so easy to become absorbed in the realm of our ideas.

The intent to meditate itself arises in the form of an idea, usually tied to something like "stress relief", "peace of mind", "spiritual development", and the like. However, so long as we hold on to these kinds of ideas of developing one outcome or another through meditation, we just remain in the realm of ideas and outside of meditation practice. Even in relation to our ideas themselves, we end up perpetuating the very circumstances that we were hoping to change.

Therefore it is the physical structure, rather than our intentions, which is paramount in Zen meditation. The physical structure is what supports our letting go of ideas and the gradual settling of our thinking mind. In this context, the physical structure of the practice and our physical body are one continuum. You asked, "why is the body [as such] not structure enough?" It is not enough because without the physical structure of a practice like Zen, most of us tend to let our body go, to a point where it turns into just another idea. In Zen practice, the body and our use of the body become inseparable, and through it our body becomes real.

If and when physical pain does arise from sitting straight, then that too is an important part of what gives reality to the body sitting. When it happens, our mind may well start thinking something like, "but this is pain, this isn't [my idea of] meditating." Different ideas come and go, and we remain just sitting.

So Zen practice is really a Trojan horse affair. It tends to set off as a wonderfully promising idea, then it connects us with our physical body and pain, and eventually it leads to not much at all, at least in the sense of nothing much to write home about. So again, as Bodhidharma may have remarked, there is our "peace of mind". Or as Bob Dylan sings it, "I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from".

The irony with Zen meditation is that most of us first engage with it to chase after rewards of one kind or another, and when those rewards eventually do come - not least because we stop being so fixated on them - there also no longer seems to be that strong sense of a separate "self" with its eagerness to claim them.

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