My wife has a hard time connecting with God. It’s not really her fault, and I don’t blame the Church either; she has a very different mindset which the general American LDS church culture cannot nurture. It’s simply an incompatibility between two completely different ways of approaching the world. So recently, I’ve been reading about other religious traditions to try and find a way to make it easier for her to find some kind of spiritual connection with God, and that’s when I hit upon zazen.
Buddhism’s core principles are simple – suffering exists because of desire. Desire creates action. When you eliminate desire (and thus, the need to act), then you eliminate suffering. Zen Buddhism believes the best way to achieve this type of enlightenment (“satori” in Zen Buddhism) is by sitting. You sit, and you slowly empty your mind so that it becomes like a still pond, reflecting reality. When you seek after your desires caused by attachment to the physical world, it is like flailing about in the pond, churning up the mud and dirt. Through sitting and stilling your mind, all of the mud and dirt settles to the bottom. You experience emotions, you observe your attachments to the world, and then you slowly cut those attachments away. It reminds me of the famous scripture in Doctrine and Covenants, “Be still, and know that I am God.” As you slowly peel away the facade of the physical world, you find what is behind, the Origin of All Things, and that is satori.
For my wife, she cannot take the idea of God and belief in Him simply on the basis of emotion. She realizes that she is an overly emotional person and that her emotions especially cannot be trusted. Zen, also, teaches that emotions are illusions, physical manifestations of our desires. But rather than suppressing these emotions, as some Western philosophies encourage, Zen teaches the student to sit, experience the emotions, and acknowledge them for what they are – illusions. Yet, God cannot be reached through logic alone, as our world is an incredibly illogical place. And so we’ve been looking for different ways to help her connect with the spiritual, and we’re hoping zazen might be it. As we sit, still our minds, and peel away the veneer, hopefully what we find on the other side is satori. Or, as we’re hoping, God.