Recently Marius, one of our regulars, sent me this lovely memoir of how he discovered meditation. I hope that you all find it as inspiring as I do!
A few month ago my wife and I discovered, by our good fortune, he Camas Meditation Group. We now attend regularly every Sunday evening, and we love being there.
I would like to explain when, how and why I started meditation, quite unexpectedly, more than 30 years ago. I was at that time teaching Math at a Canadian College, meanwhile roaming local bookstores hoping to find what it was that I did not know I was looking for!
By sheer serendipity I came across a book, entitled “The Empty Mirror”. Somehow it intrigued me, but when I read up about the author, it became an immediate must read! It turned out to be written by a Dutch author, born about the same year and the same city I was born in, Rotterdam, the Netherlands! And like me, he too, lived through the war with all the horrors and suffering for 5 long years.
In his book he writes about roaming around the world wondering and struggling with the questions I shared and most of us humans share as well. Who are we? Why are we here? And why all this suffering? For myself I summed that up with the old movie song ‘What’s it all about, Alfie?’ Some of you may be too young to remember that movie, but for me it summed up just how I felt.
For this Dutch author, to find answers, he enrolled for a year in a Japanese Zen Buddhist temple as a lay monk! He relates the hard monastery life of meditation, but also relates in various ways many of the subtle teachings of the Buddhist Masters and the growing of his insight. I became fascinated with his story and the teachings. And I wished I could do what he did and learn what he learned.
Of course, I could not go to Kyoto myself, but here is the magic.
After finishing reading the book, I went out for a walk and the first thing I see is a notice attached to a tree in front of my home. It read: The Lions Gate Buddhist Priory will be leading free meditation instruction this weekend. Time and location was most convenient for me, so, I went and I received instructions on how to meditate. It was easy, and I loved it immediately. That was my initiation to a new habit that I have come to value more and more as my life went along.
By reading the book I learned about the various Zen styles. There is Rinzai Zen, a very stern and forceful way, but also the Soto Zen, which works much better for Westerners. Other forms of meditation have evolved over time and may differ in different cultures. The outcome is the same; the benefits are!
I started meditating first in a small group in Edmonton, then I moved back to Vancouver B.C. where the Lion’s Gate Priory had a home and I attended regular Zazen each week. I sat with them for several years and was very happy to do so! But then, life’s circumstances made me move so that I could no longer attend the Lions’ Gate Zazen. I meditated on my own but soon got out of the habit. It is very powerful to meditate with a group at regular times. Why that is so, I do not know, but it is! I am very pleased to have discovered the Camas Meditation Group, where we can sit and have the benefit of sitting with others!
It has brought a new and welcome opening to our lives!
The Book that changed my life: The Empty Mirror. Author: Janwillem van de Wetering.
A sequel to this first book by the same author: A Glimpse of Nothingness
Yes, the author is Dutch, but both books are in excellent English and easy to read!