My Journey Into ZEN
It started for me as a practical solution. I had lot of stress, a family to support and a business to run. As my blood pressure was up and down Dr R. suggested I learn to relax and try Transcendental Meditation. Being analytical I did my usual research and contacted the TM centre in Vancouver. 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.
Self-Discovery July 1985
I knew I needed some help. I wasn’t sure why I was doing. Our what I was doing. I no longer had a clear vision of the life I wanted to create! A good friend suggested a workshop – I took the 5 day The Pursuit of Excellence. Then following up with The Wall 6 days residential program and then onto The Advancement of Excellence 8 week program. This was a new start for me, after the disaster of a failed marriage, I acknowledged I was the real problem.
I entered the 2 year Program Leaders Training; where I studied the background of “The Pursuit of Excellence”, I then facilitated “The Pursuit of Excellence” program for 8 years. I also learned how to the facilitate The Wall and I also facilitated The Advancement of Excellence, but my focus was “The Pursuit of Excellence” program. It was amazing to be in the company of so many gifted and wise facilitators. A special thanks to Peggy Merlin PHD who was the director of education and my coach. I discovered the writings of the Dali Lama which has led to so much more…
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.
A Life Changing Encounter
At the end the day I went looking for a place to think and meditate about what I had experienced, in the meditation room. 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.
As he was leaving, I offered my hand 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.
Through two good friends Georgia Nicholls and Judith Dawson I was invited 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” 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 solitary life style, I stopped going to the Dharma as I found it to be too full of doctrine and rules – I have always been the rebel. We moved to Victoria on Vancouver Island and I continued to read and study. I came across a book called “Way of ZEN” in Russell Books a new and used book store (I love the place). The book sparked another step in my journey. I finally felt I had found home, simple and yet profound.
Zen appeared in China because some teachers noticed that Buddhism in China had changed quite a bit. It then was adapted by the Japanese and Zen became minimalist, which is why I like the Zen tradition, and the reason I (usually) refer to myself as a ZEN student and not something else. I don’t wear robes, I am not inspired by liturgies, 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.
According to Red Pine:
“One of the hallmarks of Zen is that its teaching is not separated from our everyday lives. Buddhas don’t fall from the sky.”
Zen meditation is mainly about following the breath as well as emptying the mind. It can also include a few deeper practices like meditative inquiry and 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, Geoffrey
My Study List
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.