For the first two thousand years of its existence, Buddhism was mostly confined to monasteries with strict rules, timetables, and hierarchies. In contrast, Zen in America today finds the majority of its followers in the lay world, where most of us have families, jobs, and homes. Our zendos are places to visit, perhaps daily, but more likely once or twice a week: refuges, perhaps, from the “real world” of money and responsibility. Along with the “layification” of Zen has come a sharp distinction, for most of us, between meditation and the rest of life. While the monks of old lived and breathed, day in day out, year in year out, in an atmosphere of stillness and contemplation— their entire lives were one unbroken meditation!—we modern practitioners stop what we’re doing when we sit and restart our everyday lives when the bell signals that time’s up. The result of this is an apparent dichotomy: either I’m meditating (on my zafu, often in the zendo, sometimes at home), or I’m not meditating (the rest of the time). What’s lost in this either/or distinction is the idea that meditation can be anything I choose to make it. Sure, I can define meditation rather narrowly as the time spent on my cushion. But if I do so, I’m elevating sitting over everyday awareness and thus diluting the possibilities for all those other quotidian opportunities for mindfulness. – Barry Evans, “I Like it… but is it Meditation?” (Summer 2009) Click here to read the complete article.

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