Soto Zen practice is – at the core – a form of meditation called Serene Reflection Meditation. There are two main aspects. The first is “serenity”; we stop all our usual everyday activity and sit physically still in a meditation posture. There is a settling of the body which occurs naturally. The teacher may point us to become aware of our bodily presence, to be present and rest in the stillness of “just sitting” as it is often called. Thus the mind too settles.
The second aspect, “reflection”, works alongside the first: there is a natural opening out and a “noticing”. We become aware of sounds, smells; thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. We face a blank wall so that there is little to distract us. The key is to not follow anything or dwell on anything external or internal.
This is so different from what we usually do. We usually run with chains of thought- adding to and elaborating on them and creating stories. We turn away from fearful thoughts and feelings- anything we would rather not face; and cling to that which is to our liking. So, we create and believe our “world” and habitually see from there.
In Zen meditation, we stop this deliberation of the mind. We learn to just notice what is going on and eventually find ourselves just allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go. This takes time and regular practice to arrive at and get accustomed to.
Serene reflection is “stop and see”. Through it we are able to experience straightforwardly the many things which arise, some of which we weren’t even aware of before. Inevitably we are changed by this. We can engage and explore. It also leads us into more wholesome responses to life’s situations because we cannot over-look our newly found deeper awareness of what is really going on with ourselves and everything we meet…………please see “The Precepts“.
This kind of knowing is not a cold thing. On the contrary, there is nothing more wonderful than the discovery that real compassion, love and wisdom is already present within us.