At the Pacific Zen Institute, the emphasis is on taking one step into freedom, and having company along the way. PZI has opened koans and meditation to the light of fresh approaches, to conversation and collaboration, to the joys and tussles of real life. It is committed to the truth that we wake up together.
The best way to learn about meditation and koans is to try them.
Here are some words from a few of our teachers, about what we do and why:
Koan meditation is a way of showing up for your own life. You sit or work or talk and don’t add anything to it. You don’t criticize anything your mind offers. You don’t need to assess or improve the moment. And if you are criticizing the moment or your own state of mind, you don’t criticize that. In that way compassion appears. That way you show up for your own life.
The ancient wisdom of Zen koans tells how to make room in your life for the unaccountable. You don’t have to worry your way through a predicament; it’s more like when you hear music and your body just dances. Koans are a great treasure that anyone can bring to life. They can show how to be at home in the universe including your own skin and situation.
Suffering is basically the thought, “This isn’t it.” Reasons to be unhappy can be very convincing. There is nothing wrong with worrying, scheming and hanging on for dear life, but it’s a narrow life. There is another way to live—you can live down a level where the obstacles are gates and the richness of life is already present.
– John Tarrant, Roshi
A while back there was a conversation about what koans do and somebody said they ‘untie our shoelaces.’ I liked that. We have the ‘shoelaces’ of our life all tied up nice and neat, based on the way we think things are, and hanging out with a koan will untie that knot and we may very well trip and fall into a whole new way of experiencing things.
So, I’d have to say that the practice helps both with the falling down and the standing up.
– David Weinstein, Roshi
When I meditate, new worlds appear. Sometimes I notice something physical, a way I hold my face, something about how I’m breathing. Sometimes I notice my thinking, and I wonder how it was I came to believe that thing, so far from what I really believe. Sometimes it’s the texture of reality that comes to me, how soft and nourishing this thing is that I had never noticed before, and the problems I had a moment before just fall off me. Sometimes I find myself trading places with a tree, a bird, and the koan shows me that my life is so much richer and more mysterious than I had been aware of.
– Rachel Boughton, Roshi