Oakville Zen Meditation

#9. Questions and Answers. Q14 modified 12mar15.

Q1: I am new in meditation and a bit concerned if not somewhat stressed in joining a group practice. A: Our group meditation is very relax and very friendly. This is the way I want it. No worries please. Zen is not an esoteric and weird practice. On the contrary you will find it quickly.

Q2: Can I bring a friend? A: You can bring one or two. Anyone is welcome.

Q3: Do I have to read about Zen & Zen meditation before my first group class? A: No but it is preferable. If you send us your email address prior your first visit I will send you a few short documents regarding Zen history and Zen meditation. Also you can have a pick at our web site www.oakvillezenmeditation.ca which is quite comprehensive.

Q4: What is Zen? A: Zen is the Japanese word for meditation. Imagine Zen as our "spiritual tool" bringing us to our self-realization. Self-realization is simply the discovery of our "True self" which is very different from our "I, Me, Myself, Mine" or ego in short. Zen calls it "little self". Our mind is, above all, very self-centered and according to Zen teaching thoughts and actions from our ego-centered mind are the main cause of our on going dissatisfactions, sufferings and negative emotions such as craving, anger, fear, jealousy, resentment, anxiety and misunderstanding. Meditation is helping us to relax and control our mind and our thoughts. You will learn more about Zen philosophy and practice by joining regularly our meditation classes. See schedule.

Q5: What is Zen meditation? A: Also called zazen, Zen meditation is the simplest form of meditation. Beside the initial introduction by the teacher it is not a guided meditation and no outside helpers is required. Zen meditation is a physical & mental focusing practice aiming at relaxing then controlling our body and mind. Daily meditation and weekly group practice are by far the core of Zen practice and therefore essential for your progress. Reading hundred books on Zen will make you a good Zen scholar but a lousy Zen practitioner.

Q6: Can you describe Zen meditation? A: 1) Appropriate posture (cushion or chair) 2) Focusing on your exhale as mind anchor 3) Being mindful to incoming thoughts (they will always pop-in even after years of practice) 4) Let your thoughts go by going back to your focusing point. Nothing more nothing less. An ongoing repetition of 1-2-3-4 til the end of the session.

Q7: Why do we use our own breathing? A: Because it is here, with us anytime and easy to focus on. No external or internal artificial tool is used. Focusing on breathing is also very relaxing by itself especially when we exhale slowly. After becoming a good meditator you will be able to pick another focus point as guided by your teacher.

Q8: Does meditation can be used as therapy? A: Absolutely. In fact meditation is now recognized as an important therapeutic tool for many medical conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, poor self-image, chronic pain, etc. Many health care centres around the world are now providing meditation classes to their staff, inside and outside patients. For more information please contact me for references.

Q9: Why meditation is so important? A: As we mentioned earlier most of our dissatisfactions in life are fueled by our ego and our mind is very ego-centered. By controlling your mind & thoughts you will be able to manage your negative emotions. Meditation is not a quick fix and requires understanding, practice, time, patience, perseverance, trust and above all a non-judgmental approach about your practice. Never judge the quality - bad or good- of your meditation, just do it. One day you meditate well. It’s OK. Next day you meditate poorly. It’s OK too. Weird isn't! To have a non-judgmental attitude is very difficult to achieve for Westerners who learned to have an analytic mind.

Q10: Do I have to meditate at home? A: Absolutely! Practicing only once a week will bring you nowhere. At least 20 minutes of daily practice is recommended. I will tell you how to proceed.

Q11: What should I do if I cannot find time to meditate during the day? A: We always find time for priorities and never for non-priorities. If you cannot find 20minutes/day at least 5-times/week meditation is not perceived as important for you. You should quit and say bye bye to the group.

Q12: Is weekly group practice important? A: Yes for many reasons. 1) Group meditation is at least twice more effective than the solo one. 2) Meditation is more formal helping you to "reboot" your solo practice. 3) It is an occasion to share experience with others. 4) The Dharma talk (teaching) may/will help you to progress. 5) Tea at the end is a good way to socialize. Our classes are very relaxed and friendly.

Q13: Is reading Zen books useful? A: Venerable Yansing Sunim my Korean Zen Master for many years told me 2 years ago that I was reading too much and becoming too intellectual about Zen. He also said that more knowledge is only good for the ego! I am recommending only 2 books: Buddhism for dummies (excellent) and What is Zen by Allan Watts. For other books please ask me. Some web sites and YouTube are OK, others are dangerous. Again contact me for assistance.

Q14: How long are the sessions? A: The session lasts around 1h30 min. Sitting- walking- sitting meditation followed by 5-10 minutes Dharma talk during the tea break. Questions are always welcome. Handouts of the Dharma talk will be provided during the session to the participants if requested. Classes always start on time. If after your first session you find that you cannot meditate so long you have the option to come one hour later to attend the second shorter meditation period and the Dharma talk. As you progress in meditation our group meditation time will increased. As you progress in meditation our group meditation time will increased. Please refrain from wearing fragrances, exchanging business card during session and turn off your cell phone before.

Q15: What is the role of the teacher? A: Teaching Zen is somewhat a pretentious word. The teacher is mainly your GSP showing you the directions. You are the driver. I will help you and assess your progress if the request is made. Even as a Zen Master I still go to my weekly class to practice and listen to my teacher.

Q16: What do you teach? A: We review the key points of Zen Buddhism and mindfulness meditation as taught by the Buddha (nickname for "the awakened one") and how to apply them in our daily life. (See also the first question: What is Zen?). Between the 2 sets of meditation I’ll will try to answer any question after the Dharma talk (Zen teaching). Beside meditation Zen implies a way of life and thinking. Details will be given during class.

Q17: How much is the session? A: The sessions are free. Please arrive on time i.e. 5 minutes before or 20 minutes before if you are new in meditation.

Q18: How should I dress? A: Casual, non-tight pants. Please dress accordingly. AND avoid using any fragrance to respect other participants with allergy.

Q19: Can I practice Zen Meditation without becoming a Buddhist? 
 A: Absolutely. There is no commitment to become one.

Q20: Can I practice Zen Meditation even if I belong to another religion or if I do not believe in anything? 
 A: Yes. Zen Buddhism does not discriminate and recognizes all religions and denominations.

Q21: How long will it take to meditate properly? A: Few weeks to few years if you have the understanding, will, discipline, time to practice daily, patience and if you do not judge yourself. Like for everything in life practice makes perfect. If you are looking for a quick fix meditation is not the solution. Coming regularly to the class will make your progress faster.

 Q22: How do I know that I am progressing in Zen practice if I should not judge the quality of my meditation? A: Zen is an intuitive experience. There is no exam, no test, and no mark. Few clues can help you here. 1) If you are able to meditate every day without finding the excuse - such as lack of time - for not doing it. 2) When you become more mindful re yours senses, actions, and thoughts. 3) From the feedback of your teacher as long you are requesting it. 4) and a few more.

Q23: Can I email you question(s) or concern(s) any time? A: Of course. You will get a reply within 48h. That's my job as teacher and also I may learn from you.

Q24: Is it possible that, after few weeks the practice feels like routine? A: Yes. It means that the initial "excitement" is phasing out. Nothing wrong here as long you do not give up because it feels somewhat boring. When meditation becomes routine it is a good sign.

Q25:  When I am going to feel the benefits of meditation? A: The more you practice the sooner the benefits. Also group meditation is twice as effective as solo meditation: 40min. in group = ~ 80min. alone. If you practice at least 20min./day + one weekly group within 5 weeks you should appreciate the difference. It may vary from member to member. Again and again the practice is cumulative. There is no other way and no miracle.


Ven. Ji Gong Sunim.