A Road Less Travelled
My journey into self discovery: I was looking for a practical solution, I was under a lot of stress, with a family to support and a new business to run my blood pressure was up and Dr R. suggested I learn to relax! Try Transcendental Meditation was the suggestion. I contacted the TM centre and Aeyon Shandrel was my teacher and guide into TM; it was 1976. I still meditate today although I now use a different technique. I started reading various books on meditation and Buddhism.
I knew I needed some help. I wasn’t sure why I was doing what I was doing? I no longer had a clear vision of the life I wanted to create! “The Pursuit of Excellence” was recommended. Then I went to “The Wall” a retreat. This gave me time to think and learn after the disaster of a failed marriage,
Becoming A Facilitator For Others
I was so impressed by the practical results I joined the 2yr Program Leaders Training for the Pursuit of Excellence. I studied the background knowledge used to create “The Pursuit of Excellence” program and experience. I graduated 1968 and then facilitated “The Pursuit of Excellence” program for 8 years. A special thanks to Peggy Merlin PHD the director of education and Jim Sorensen who was my coach. I discovered the writings of the Dali Lama which has led to so much more…
A Life Changing Encounter
My first interaction with a ZEN monk came while at a retreat at ‘The Haven’ on Gabriola Island. I was taking part in a 5-day program called “Come Alive” I had been working on my family issues and personal history. At the end the day I went looking for a place to think and meditate about what I had experienced. As I entered the meditation room, I noticed a man sitting quietly in the corner. I sat down quietly not wanting to disturb him, he looked up and acknowledged me with a nod of his head and I nodded back. It was then I noticed he was in monks clothing, he smiled warmly.
I offered my handshake and said, “I am Geoffrey” he simply said “Reps” and he gave slight bow and then asked a question, smiled, paused and walked out of the room… With that one question he changed the course of my life – thank you Reps. I have been working on answering that question ever since. I never saw Reps again, I found out his full name later “Paul Reps” ZEN Monk his books have sold more than 1 million copies.
Two good friends, Georgia Nicholls and Judith Dawson invited me to attend a weekend long meditation practice. When Judith and I arrived it was suggested that I needed to ask Lama Chhyoing, who was leading this very special weekend, for his blessing to attend. I was surprised and said yes, then I got to meet him.
We had tea and chatted, and he asked me “How long have you been meditating?” My answer “more than 30 years” it surprised him so much that he laughed out loud, his response “oh I am sure you can join us” and he than asked me if I would like to take the vow of “Refuge’ and to follow the teaching of Buddha. I said yes, it was wonderful weekend.
My study of Buddhism ran into my curious life style lots of travel and leading programs. I stopped going to the Dharma as I found it to be too full of doctrine and rules – I have always been the rebel. I came across a book called “Way of ZEN” the book sparked another step in my journey. I finally felt I had found home, simple and yet profound.
When Did Zen Appear?
Zen’s golden age began in Hui-neng (638-713 China) Zen appeared because some teachers noticed that Buddhism in China had changed, becoming full of doctrine and the ‘right’ way. Nōnin established the first Zen school in Japan. Under the influence of the Japanese Masters Zen then became minimalist. I like the Japanese Zen tradition, and I am a ZEN student and not something else. I don’t wear robes, I am not inspired by liturgies or doctrine, but none of that is fundamental to Zen practice, really. People will try to tell you that it is and very likely that some Zen leaders will argue with me.
“One of Zen principles is that its teaching is not separated from our everyday lives.
Buddhas don’t fall from the sky.” Zen Master Red Pine
Zen meditation is about following the breath as well as emptying the mind. It can also include a few deeper practices like meditative inquiry and koan riddles. I love the riddles and teaching stories. For me it is that Zen Buddhism is minimalist, no haste or waste, learn what you learn. I wish you the very best on your journey of awareness, Geoffrey
My Reading List
My favourite is Paul Reps ZEN Monk and his book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. He was an American artist, poet, author and Zen student. He is considered one of America’s first haiku poets. Many of his books have artwork influenced by Zen Buddhism displayed in association with his writings The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler
Way of Zen by Tenshin Flectcher & David Scott
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks On Zen Meditation And Practice by Shuryhyu Suzuki (Editor Trudy Dixon) available as written & audio books
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Ron Di Santo, Tom Steele available as written & audio books
*Alan Watts -The Way of ZEN – The Book -The Wisdom of Insecurity – Become What You Are – The Spirit of ZEN (these are just a few of his books)
I have most of the *Alan Watts books. I also bought his entire audio collection, brilliant and engaging – these are a great philosophical and educational lectures on the history and evolution of Asian beliefs and the evolution of ZEN. https://alanwatts.org/audio/
*Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer and speaker known for interpreting and popularizing Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York.