Zen in a Time of Uncertainty
The Way of the Buddha is intrinsically accomplished and perfect; the principle of Buddhism is complete freedom
(from the Fukan Zazenji [Dogen’s essay on recommending Zazen to everyone])
Our Zen practice is a refuge that can help us in times of uncertainty…
It offers stability in terms of being concrete and embodied. We show up on our cushions, or chair, each day (it’s a daily practice) as we assume the forms: zazen, kinhin, mudras, gassho etc. These forms we practice time and time again, build familiarity and help us move more easily into a space of calm and concentration.
It can be a balm to the mind, as our interior practice (Mu, counting of the breath, following the breath, etc) brings us back to the present, providing a respite from the many thoughts of the monkey mind – which the wisdom of tradition instructs us ‘neither to cherish nor to chase away‘, but simply notice as we return again and again to the present moment (‘1000 thoughts are 1000 opportunities to return to the practice’).
It provides the refuge of community / sangha – it is a social practice: we meet as companions on the way and support each other through the various activities of the sangha. Why is it that we continue online when we cannot meet in person? If we are studying with a teacher, this social dimension is deepened with a 1-1 support and guide on the spiritual journey.
It is a compassionate practice, helping us to glimpse beyond the border of the small I, to the big I (which includes others and the world) and to play our part in engaging in an appropriate response to the circumstances we find ourselves in. This expanded view also helps us to be more compassionate with ourselves and our own shortcomings – just as we are with others.
Ultimately it can help us be at peace and find joy (the ‘complete freedom‘ Dogen refers to) even in a place of deep uncertainty where we experience the reality of impermanence and change.

Indeed it is a practice for the times!

Richard Warner is a member and teacher at the Sun Mountain Zen centre in Brisbane and in 2021 has also participated in a year-long Social Engaged Buddhist Training at the Upaya Zen Centre.

Photo by Aleks Dahlberg

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Zen in a Time of Uncertainty

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