Silent path to hap­pi­ness

Can sit­ting in si­lence make you a hap­pier per­son? The Auck­land Zen Cen­tre in One­hunga prac­tices Zen med­i­ta­tion but it’s not about emp­ty­ing your mind, as chief re­porter Jess Etheridge found out.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

There were no ‘‘oms’’ or ‘‘ahs’’ – just people seek­ing in­ner peace.

Who knew sit­ting still for 20 min­utes – apart from the flow of breath in and out of your body – would pro­vide such a re­sult?

As Sen­sei Amala Wright­son says, no-one can say if med­i­ta­tion is for you. But if you want to awaken your mind, you may find it help­ful.

Zen was founded in China and wound up in Ja­pan in the 13th century, Wright­son says.

It was pop­u­larised in New Zealand in the 1970s and does not fol­low a set be­lief sys­tem.

Af­ter an in­tro­duc­tion to Bud­dhist his­tory, we head into the zendo med­i­ta­tion room.

He­len Gal­lagher,

a mem­ber for five years, runs us through dif­fer­ent sit­ting po­si­tions us­ing pil­lows.

Knees have to touch ei­ther the ground or a sup­port pil­low, and sit lower than your pelvis.

Sen­sei ma­noeu­vres her­self into the full lo­tus po­si­tion – when you cross your legs and have your feet rest­ing on your thighs.

The hands are cupped at the belly, right hand cradling left, and the very tips of your thumbs touch. I cross my legs and lower my gaze.

Af­ter a while lit­tle flecks of colour start to spread across my vi­sion. (Af­ter­wards, oth­ers re­veal it hap­pened to them too and Wright­son as­sures us it’s nor­mal.)

My left knee starts to hurt and I start to lose feel­ing in one foot. Surely more than 20 min­utes have passed? Frus­tra­tion, at how slow time passes, ap­pears and dis­ap­pears quickly.

I won­der what ev­ery­one else is think­ing about. You wouldn’t know – the room’s at­mos­phere is calm.

We do an­other 20-minute sit­ting and at the end we bow to each other as a sign of re­spect.

Sen­sei de­briefs us on what hap­pened. The faces of the people sit­ting around the zendo have soft­ened. I imag­ine I look less grumpy too.

Med­i­tat­ing may feel silly at first but it’s about ‘‘me time’’ which we of­ten for­get in our busy lives.

Auck­land Zen Cen­tre’s next work­shop is on July 19. En­try is by do­na­tion and book­ing is es­sen­tial.


Zon­ing in: Chief re­porter Jess Etheridge tried her hand at Zen med­i­ta­tion at One­hunga’s Auck­land Zen Cen­tre.

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