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.
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.
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.