Seikan Cech, 1
Interview with Seikan Cech
What was your first experience with meditation?
My earliest memory of meditation is sitting on a sled in a lane in Prague, with big snowflakes falling all around me and on my body. The lane was flat, so I was just sitting there like a small hill. I would have been about 4 years old.
Like a small hill? Your description is inviting. Did you know even then that this was meditation?
I guess that depends on what you mean by "knowing". Small hills, young children, snowflakes, all are states of knowing in themselves. So did the 4-year old know meditation as an experience? Yes. Did he know meditation practice? No.
Meditation practice, particularly in Zen, is not so much about experience, as about a particular structure as a means of letting go. Most people that I meet who first come to Zen meditation seem to do so with a hope of experiencing special mind states. But in practice we either manage to settle for the structure of sitting meditation, or we soon stop coming and look for special experiences somewhere else.
So in Zazen, or Zen meditation, the often touted notion of "just being" ceases to be something abstract and starts being the physical reality of "just sitting". In the first instance, this can often involve sitting with some pain or discomfort. Ironically people come to Zen mostly looking for pleasant experiences of the mind, and instead we discover the body and usually meet with pain.
This reminds me of a story of Bodhidharma, the legendary Indian monk said to have brought Zen to China and to have spent many years just sitting in a cave facing a wall. When a young monk approached him there for advice on how to settle his mind, Bodhidharma's advice was that he should go find his mind and Bodhidharma would settle it for him. When the monk eventually returned to say that he had not found his mind, Bodhidharma replied: "So there you have it, I have settled it for you".