This is Post 22 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series.
In very general terms, the classic Zen meditation practice of Zazen, or ‘Just Sitting’, can be thought of as a meditation that takes the body as a whole, and its environment, as the ‘object’ of the meditation practice. For those that have not experienced the practice, it can be difficult to understand how this seemingly diffuse and unfocused approach to meditation could, in a very natural and effortless way, give rise to strong states of psycho-physical integration, where it appears that Consciousness is the unifying power that is producing the state of effortless concentration, rather than any willed concentration on a particular ‘object’. Indeed the ‘object’ of attention in Zazen practice, if there is one, is Consciousness – the field in which the experiencing is happening.
Sympathetic Joy – the Zen of Embodied Consciousness
In the last few posts I have reflecting in different ways on the brahmavihāras or muditā, which is usually translated as Sympathetic Joy. In the text of my writing I have been translating muditā as Appreciative Joy, which is more accurate, and which I prefer, but in the titles and section headings I have be using the more frequently used translation of Sympathetic Joy.
Although it is by no means limited to Appreciative Joy, Zazen practice obviously has a close connection with Sympathetic Joy. The characteristic boundlessness of Zazen, while simultaneously paying attention to the felt experience of the body, means that the practice also has much in common with all of the brahmavihāras, and with the approach to meditation that I have been presenting in these ‘Meditation Guidance’ articles.
I am aware that Zen Buddhism has different associations for different people, and different schools of Zen have different emphases. In this instance, I am making reference to Zen to highlight an approach to meditation practice that is characterised by a sense of embodiment, expansiveness, appreciation, contentment and gratitude, and a deep and fearless willingness to fully inhabit the body and the sensory world as Consciousness – attitudes that are characteristic, in my view, of Appreciative Joy. Continue reading