I first encountered Zazen around my thirty third birthday, it came to me when I was at a point of crisis in my life. I’d been working as a management accountant and I was deeply unhappy. I felt trapped, I was being bullied by my line manager and I spent my days pinging from overwhelm to mania and by the time I got home I was an angry mess and a nightmare to live with.
I was at my limit and I broke, one weekend I realised I couldn’t face work that Monday morning, instead I went to the doctors and was signed off with stress for three weeks.
It was a strange feeling, I’d only ever had time off for holidays and three weeks seemed like a life time. I’d been considering the idea of training in Zen Mindfulness as the idea of learning to become more present and manage my stress had seemed appealing, but now it seemed vital.
I called up and managed to book the last place on the course and within days I was on a flight to Inverness, Scotland. As soon as I stepped off the plane and breathed in the fresh Highlands air I felt my mind and body begin unwind.
The course was set among rolling hills, wild woods and calm lochs. The picture above is the meditation hall!
Here among the serenity of nature I learnt the art of ‘sitting doing nothing’ also known as Zazen it’s the foundation of Zen Buddhism and is the process by which we come to know ourselves.
At first my mind would be racing when I sat in meditation, my thoughts about going back to work felt overwhelming, I was worried about the potential confrontations with my line manager and felt trapped in the role that I’d been working in for the seven previous years.
However, as I sat with these thoughts, I began to let them go. I stopped mulling them over and accepted that I would have to deal with these situations when I went back. I also began to see where I could take responsibility and make changes; for example I committed to looking for a new job. And finally, I even began to emphasise with my line manager I realised that for her to be so proactive in making her employees working lives miserable that she must be miserable herself.
All this from sitting doing nothing!
And as the course went on and these feelings of peacefulness grew within me and the stress and tension I’d been feeling melted a little more with each morning meditation and I became more present each day. Then on my birthday I had my own awakening or ‘satori’, we were being guided through a meditation called the unborn where we connected to our essence that existed before our birth.
Through this meditation I experienced a moment where I connected to my essence! I was no longer my thoughts; they were born things and I connected to my awareness that existed beyond by thoughts and had existed before my thoughts and would exist after them.
It was an incredible experience and was huge breakthrough in allowing me to understand that so much of the drama and story in my life which I had become caught up in was just that, drama and story, it wasn’t me!
From this experience I began to understand the power of using meditation to support my wellbeing and shifted my mindset as I was no longer so caught up with what was happening around me. I was able to take a broader perspective, bringing acceptance and empathy to situations which I would have previously brought stress and reactivity. I also found because of this I had more energy to focus on making positive changes in my life.
Meaning when I went back to work I handled the situation calmly, I found a new job and since then I’ve not had any further stress related sickness!
This experience was a game changer for me and gave me the skills to develop a deep meditation practice as well as showing me how big a difference it could make out in the real world especially when facing challenging situations.
This why I believe so deeply in meditation; it was able to support me to make massive changes in my life and I know it has the potential to do that for anyone who had integrates this practice into their lives!
If this has resonated with you and you’d like to experience the power of meditation then come and join me for one of my online meditation sessions, full details in my Facebook Group: Golden Path Gathering, Join here!