Day 25: Zen

Today we took a long drive out of Beijing to visit a Zen meditation center in the mountains. As soon as we got out of Beijing,  it immediately became much cleaner and green. When we pulled into a driveway of one of the highway roads, there were only a couple of buildings surrounded by woods. In every direction were lush green mountains, all very beautiful. Once out of the bus we had to take a little bit of a hike up a mountain to the retreat. It was actually a very nice area. There were little boarding rooms next to the main couple of wooden buildings. I guess the best way to describe it is that it was very Zen-like (lots of very friendly butterflies), and a lake where you could float on some bamboo rafts.

The first meditation we did was walking meditation. The Zen master said that meditation is all about focusing on the inner self and blocking out all other distractions of the senses. This walking meditation was practice. Then we went inside to discuss our experiences shortly followed by a stagnant meditation (the kind you’re used to seeing on TV).

There was lots of interesting philosophy connected with meditation. One comparison the master made was that your mind is a lot like a driver of a car. If the driver gets distracted, the car might crash or is in greater danger of doing so. In the same way, your mind needs to pay attention to the body to make sure it is doing the right things. At this point Eric turned to me and said “That’s a really good analogy.”

When we finished our lesson we had a wonderfully tasty lunch and then some time off to walk around the grounds. Most everyone ended up down by a very small dammed lake to go float around on the rafts for a little while. The water was surprisingly clean compared to the Beijing water we’re used to. Then we piled back on the bus for the long trek back home.