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Right Concentration: The Stillness Within the Storm







The Noble Eightfold Path is a simplification of the Buddha’s teachings.

We can remember these through the acronym VISA LEM C.







Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk, peace activist, prolific author, poet, teacher, and ‘father of mindfulness’ says;

“When you practice Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration is easy.

The energy of mindfulness already contains the energy of concentration,

and with mindfulness and concentration, 

you practice looking, listening, and touching deeply, 

and out of that deep looking, listening, and touching, Right View is the fruit. 

Understanding and insight grow. 


As Right View continues to grow, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Effort will become stronger. 

When you sit correctly, your thinking is clear, and you act accordingly and practice Right Livelihood. Everything depends on Right View, and Right View depends on Right Mindfulness.”


There is no particular beginning point and, therefore, no end. Zen is a constant practice.

Right Concentration stands as a crucial component on the Noble Eightfold Path, guiding practitioners toward clarity of mind and tranquility of spirit. But what exactly does Right Concentration entail, and how does it align with the essence of Zen practice?


The Buddha's words echo through the ages: 

“What now is Right Concentration? 

Having the mind fixed to a single object [single-pointedness of mind]: this is concentration.” 



Single pointedness and the traditional samadhi:


While the term "samadhi" is often associated with single-pointed concentration in traditional Buddhist contexts, it's important to note that Zen takes a somewhat different perspective. In Zen, the emphasis is not on achieving a state of deep concentration but rather on cultivating a state of "everyday mind" or "ordinary mind."

A mind that's as free of ego-driven thoughts, feelings, and impulses as possible. To be as present as possible in each moment.

It takes a level of concentration to spot where our greed, hate, and delusions creep in, and dedication to prevent the ripples they send out into the world. This requires diligence to grow in awareness. Awareness of our body, speech, and mind, instinctively want to do and stepping in with wisdom, in as many moments as possible.


In essence, Zen encourages practitioners to find clarity and presence in each moment, whether sitting in meditation or engaged in daily activities. It's not about escaping from the world or transcending earthly ties, but rather about fully embracing the present moment with all its joys and challenges. This nuanced understanding of concentration reflects the Zen emphasis on mindfulness in action, where each action, no matter how mundane, becomes an opportunity for awakening.




Cultivating:

One approach to Right Concentration is through the practice of Zazen. During Zazen, practitioners sit* in stillness, allowing thoughts to arise and pass without attachment. This practice fosters a sense of inner calm and clarity, allowing the mind to settle naturally without force or strain. *Rising Lotus Sangha does not require you to sit upright on a cushion if this is uncomfortable for you.


It's crucial to recognize that Right Concentration extends beyond formal meditation practice. In Zen, concentration is not confined to the meditation cushion but is integrated into every aspect of life. Whether washing dishes, walking in nature, or conversing with others, Zen encourages practitioners to remain fully present and attentive to each moment as it unfolds. In this sense, Right Concentration becomes a way of being rather than a goal to achieve. It's about cultivating a deep sense of self-awareness, where we can observe our reactions to stimuli but not let them lead our responses. We can let them inform us, but not dictate.

Over time this allows us to stay open to whatever arises, whether pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant. Through these practices, we learn to let go of distractions and obsessions, allowing the mind to rest naturally in a state of clarity and equanimity.


We recognize the inherent beauty and perfection of existence,  just as it is, finding solace amidst life's fluctuations. 

It is the still point of the pendulum.


Which, if we embrace impermanence, will also be fleeting.


The refuge of equanimity - calm in the storm

Life is full of storms; challenges that creep across the horizon, those things that can potentially throw our lives into disarray.  Through equanimity, we find our anchor, navigating the highs and lows with grace. We become The Calm One In The Boat.


Beyond the cushion, equanimity becomes our guiding light in every interaction and circumstance. Whether faced with joy or sorrow, success or failure, we meet each experience with the same steady gaze, recognizing that all things are impermanent and subject to change. In this way, equanimity becomes a source of strength and stability, grounding us in the present moment and freeing us from the grip of attachment and aversion. The journey of Right Concentration therefore is a deeply personal one, guided by the wisdom of Zen teachings and the insights gained through direct experience. By embracing the present moment with openness and curiosity, we can cultivate a mind that is clear, alert, and at peace, both on and off the meditation cushion.

As we cultivate equanimity in our daily lives, we discover a  sense of peace that transcends the ups and downs of everyday life. With each breath, we deepen our connection to the vast expanse of being, embracing the richness of life in all its myriad forms. And in the stillness of our hearts, we find refuge—a sanctuary of equanimity amidst the ever-changing dance of existence, supported by Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.


Gassho 🙏 Shinjin

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