T Nation

Trouble With Zen

OK, so maybe I expect too much from Zen and meditation. I expect some sort of Nirvana, some quiet bliss from “being there, now”. Having a mind free to explore any option, to enjoy the moment in all its simplicity.

I’ve cleared the clutter in my life, first the physical, then the mental but …

Man, I feel … dead. Emotionally, at least. No highs, no lows, no special feeling coming from that internal decluttering. No special internal fire in the belly.

I’m not saying that the mental side of the job is finished, far from it. I feel some old garbage, some unresolved issues coming to the surface. But the state of detachment that one is supposed to reach by silent meditation is not doing it for me.

In fact, I’m now leaning towards the opposite. Obsessive goals. Ones that fuel my fire. Ones that keep me going the extra mile. Ones that get tangible results. Some real world stuff. And the satisfaction of doing physical work. Something manly.

I don’t get that high by meditating. Yes, meditating has helped me “be there, now” more. I notice small details that I did not notice before. I pay more attention to the subtleties, to people, and I take things “slower”. Music sounds better, and gives me goosebumps more frequently. You could say I feel more … on the sensual level. But intellectually and in my balls, nope.

Maybe Zen is helpful in recuperating when The Inner Beast is spent.

But then again, I’m a newbie to this stuff. It’s probably a transitory phase.


Maybe zen provides nirvana. But then again, so does Kurt Cobain.

What system of Zen are you studying?
Soto? Rinzai? How long?

This may not apply to you but sometimes I believe people have an expectation of what the “Zen Experience” is supposed to be, when really it is just what you are experiencing at that time. You mentioned the need/want to do something physical something that was more tangible. I think that physical work is an essential part of Zen training, if just for the reason of immersing yourself in something that is so utterly the present.

Do you have a teacher? Some people would say Zen is the easiest form of Buddhist meditation because you ‘just sit.’ Personally, I think it’s the hardest. It’s a lot like sticking somebody at the foot of Mt. Everest and telling them to ‘just climb.’ Helps to have a guide, eh?

Buddhist meditation is not about getting a high or experiencing bliss. It’s about clearing the mind and then training the mind. It’s a lot like building muscle - a very slow process. You don’t see the results immediately when you look in the mirror the next day, but steadily the tiny changes add up.

I think your expectations may be off and you may also be experiencing a type of placebo effect (Meditation does not make you feel dead emotionally, due to detachment. Your misconception of what constitutes detachment is playing tricks on your mind).

Thanks! I am not studying a Zen system in particular. I am following the guidelines detailed in a book about simplicity written by a Westerner who went to Japan for 20+ years, in which she summarizes what she learned there. The rest of the book made sense and was very valuable to me, so I thought meditation would be worth the try.

My misconception about detachment was influenced by what I read. According to the author, one of the goals consists of neutralizing thoughts, ideas, and imagination. To paraphrase her “When you are able to stop thinking, you have achieved your goal. Things become simple. It is as if you were dead. Accept ideas that emerge without giving them importance.”

This goes against almost everything I have learned from the Western school of emotional management, i.e. write things down, exert discipline on negative thoughts, remember your goals, actualize what you feel, let people know how you experience things instead of bottling up your emotions. Writing things down gives me some sort of scientific-like detachment, while keeping the ownership of the experience.

The line seems to be fine between detachment and disowning.

There are different kinds of meditation, and meditation can be used for different purposes. I don’t meditate to find enlightenment or to heal myself. I meditate to energize my body, mind, and spirit, and to focus my energy on my purpose. Also, after meditating I always feel like the world around me is moving a bit slower, and of course I find it much harder to get upset after meditation.

It sounds like your problem is in how you’re meditating vs. what you expect to get out of it. You should look further into meditation and try other methods. One I would recommend is Chakra meditation, which focuses on opening up the energy channels within your body.

No need to become dead. Use meditation to bring about an intense love for life and all there is to experience!

Zen has never helped me maintain my motorcycle. I have found the shop manual is far better.

Seriously if you seek to avoid the lows in life you will not feel the highs either.

Embrace the passions in your life. Go ahead and fall in love, sure you might get your heartbroken. Deal with it.

[quote]MrChill wrote:
…I’m now leaning towards the opposite. Obsessive goals. Ones that fuel my fire. Ones that keep me going the extra mile. Ones that get tangible results. Some real world stuff. And the satisfaction of doing physical work. Something manly.
[/quote]

If you are looking to zen to give you the drive to acquire tangible things, I think you may be looking in the wrong place.

Nothingness gets a bad rap.

[quote]MrChill wrote:
In fact, I’m now leaning towards the opposite. Obsessive goals. Ones that fuel my fire. Ones that keep me going the extra mile. Ones that get tangible results. Some real world stuff. And the satisfaction of doing physical work. Something manly.
[/quote]

Meditation has helped you achieve this and it’s a good thing. I don’t claim to be an expert but you’re right, your expectations of what meditation was supposed be like were off. the most important thing to learn from meditating is how you’re going to succeed in channeling this energy and wisdom attained through silent contemplation and awareness into your everyday life.

[quote]MrChill wrote:

Man, I feel … dead. Emotionally, at least. No highs, no lows, no special feeling coming from that internal decluttering. No special internal fire in the belly.

[/quote]

I’ve experienced this very same thing.
I have never practised “Zen” in it’s particular form, however, I undertook some training by the Buddhist monks at the Doi Suthep temple when in Thailand, and study
Lao Tze.

The real thing came from my dating life, which I’ve been studying for years now.
(and with which Zen is very much related in matters of a certain succes)

I became totally indifferent, showing no interest in anything. I was friendly, and people liked me, however, I lacked my previous enthousiasm, and just like you, I felt empty.

But this is indeed a transitional fase.
There comes a time when you can “re-identify” yourself with your previous self, but only without the extra bagage. But that’ll take a while, but realising it is the main thing.

Think of it as returning to a child-like status, with the wisdom you have acquired from your life up until now, but without the emotional damage and protection that was caused by the experiences which led to that wisdom.

This all comes from within.

The most important thing I can tell you, is to not think consciously about what you are doing. You and your mind know what they want, and it will get it.

Stop “thinking” about Zen and just “be” Zen. Stop “thinking” about how you lost one thing when you went for another, it will all fall in place in the end. There is a way to have it all, but you will just have to let go. Let go of everything.

Two books I would recommend reading:

First is: “An Introduction to Zen Training” By Omori Sogen. Here is a link:

http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3641142755972&isbn=0804832471

Second is “Three Pillars of Zen” by Philip Kapleau.

http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3641142755972&isbn=0385260938

The Omori Sogen book mostly concerns the Rinazi Zen school of Zen. His background is in Zen, Ken, and Calligraphy. The Rinzai style maybe more to your interest.

I do not claim to be any type of expert in this area I can only offer what I have experienced and point you in the direction of some of the things I have read and found helpful. But nothing will replace a knowledgable teacher.

Zen is ok, but you’d never make big progress unless you did it all day long.

Try this instead or additionally:

Kinda - western version, but results will come much more quickly.

They do live courses in the USA so i’d recommend you go to them.

Good luck!!

Try smoking pot. I’d have to in order to believe any of the stuff you just said.