Sit down with life in and around you

Starting motors, bike chains rattling, sirens… As spring arrives and it starts to get light earlier, I try to escape that kind of city sounds and ride my bike in the early morning through a silent city to the Zen Center Amsterdam for zazen.

‘Silence’ in the city

In a pleasant canal house you can start the day with a free hour zazen meditation. The process is simple. You choose a spot in front of the wall and go sit on the floor on a zabuton (meditation mat) and zafu (meditation cushion), cross legged and with your hands folded in a bowl in front of your belly, right at the belly button. The jikido (meditation supervisor) sounds the gong and then it’s silent.

At least… The big city stretches around this hour. Early building work in the inner city are the rule rather than the exception. The sound of footsteps on the staircase, a door is slammed shut. And then there’s the ‘noise’ of your own mind. Also in the early morning your thoughts rapidly hurtling through your head.

Buddha smiles

The Buddha would smile about it. The Japanese word for Zazen, meditation, actually means just sit; under any circumstances. That it first needs to be quiet to be able to meditate, is a common misunderstanding. And an impossible condition. It will never be silent, not outside and not from the inside. In the bright room with plenty of natural wood and the warm red of the Zen Center at the Binnenkant 39, you practice to be ‘just’ immovable for 25 minutes, twice. In between you are doing a ten minutes kinhin, a walking meditation.

Maybe it changes something. You will listen differently to all the noises. You discover that the thoughts express train usually stops on the same stations. Or maybe it’s already after an hour that you step outside to start your day just slightly calmer.

Do you also feel like doing Zen meditation; check out Zen Amsterdam!


Photocredits: Jasper de Waal