Meditation can be painful. Especially if it’s practiced for long hours in a Zen retreat. But that’s not why Rinzai Zen teacher Genki Roshi once described meditation to his student Kurt Spellmeyer as “dying on the cushion.” In this series, Spellmeyer, now a Zen priest, takes a closer look at what exactly “dies” on the cushion—our sense of self, the death of which allows us to exist in perpetual harmony with the surrounding world. When meditative insight rids the self of barriers, what remains is an open gate of awareness and communication.

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