Zen in Philly
Today was a half day sit with our affiliate group of Zen Mountain Monastery here in Philadelphia. Our group meets at the Shambhalla Center and is mostly made up of people who are students at the monastery, with a few newcomers who just want to learn more about zen and meditation. Today consisted of 4 periods of sitting — each period is an hour of zazen with 5 min. of kinhin (walking meditation) in between. Often someone from the monastery or temple will visit for these sittings to also offer Dokusan — one on one teaching. However, today was just simply sitting with a potluck meal afterwords.
As you know, I suffer from upper back pain which I think is caused by bad alignment. So, today I really focused on sitting up straight, and it helped most of the time. It really wasn’t until the end that the pain started to sneak in. Probably the most interesting insight I had today was about emotions. If this thing called mind is a theatre in our heads, where do emotions fit in? It really made me think of what those are — the fear, anger, happiness, sadness. I think they might just be physical manifestations of the dialogue in our head. If that is true, then it seems kind of disappointing. As a theatre major in school, I spent a lot of time getting “in touch” with those emotions to the point of being able to bring them about in a moment’s notice for a character. Now that I write this, maybe that was actually a good thing, because it was working inside out. In other words, usually we feel emotions come upon us. To have to bring them on means we replicate things in our lives (sensory recall in theatre terms). So, to understand that process is similar to doing zazen — to see the workings of the mind. So, my real question is, are these emotions just another one of our inventions to keep us from understanding ourselves? What do you think?