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Zazen - A Brief Pause to the Fast-moving Life

The slow and then fast flow of time,

The pain and then the relief of the body,

The heavy burden of reality and then the lightness of realization,

those conclude my first experience of Zazen - a traditional Buddhist meditation.

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In my short past 19 years of life, I always like to ask myself questions like "What do I want to do?", "Am I doing this right?", "What kind of person do I hope to become?". These questions become my guideline, motivating me through various choices and decisions. I consider them to be the same as looking for the traffic signals before crossing the street or reading through the instructions before operating a machine - I want to make sure the things I do is in align with my future goals. From there, every day I will become closer to that "ideal" self I hope to be.

However, I have never gone more in-depth than that. To me, justifying the motivations behind each action seems to be sufficient enough in self-progression for the long term. Similarly, for this Zazen, I also reasoned my participation with "experiencing Japanese religion culture", an undoubtedly perfect cause for trying out Zazen the first time.

Therefore, in a regular Saturday afternoon, I walked in 大龍寺, a traditional Japanese temple lying quietly on 夏目坂通, the birthplace of the famous writer Natsume Sōseki. After learning the basic procedures and manners of Zazen from the master, I started my first experience of Zazen.

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大龍寺の住職: 太田さん

The first fifteen minutes are, unsurprisingly, hard to endure. Absolute quietness is like an amplifier of all the noises and discomfort. I can clearly hear the sound of trucks driving on the street, feel the sweat running down the warm air of mid-July Tokyo, and sense the tiredness of a long day slowly creeping up in my head. The time seems to flow much slower. Every second, the burden of all the discomfort becomes heavier. 'Seems like this is never going to end.' I quietly told myself.

But apparently, the tiredness does not go on forever. Before I even consciously realize, I was already dragged into the flashbacks of the past. I am still sitting there. But instead of feeling all the discomfort, I become a quiet viewer of my memories. For a moment, I forgot to evaluate myself with the question of "What do I want to do?" but rather "Who am I?" For the very first time, I realized that I am not really familiar with myself. Instead of blindly following the "traffic rules" or "instructions" I used to believe in, I started to question the reason behind these rules and whether they are just non-existent boundaries set for myself. In the next thirty minutes, I got the precious experience of going back to the origin and looking back to the past to refine the definition of myself instead of hurrying forward to the future.

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The tiring slow flow of time is replaced by quick flashbacks. The pain of the body is replaced by relief. The heavy burden of reality is replaced by the lightness of realization. In the short thirty minutes, I become more aware of the definition of myself. To me, Zazen is an unforgettable experience of pressing a brief pause of the fast-moving life, looking back on all the roads walked, and, rather than blindly aiming for the future, understanding where I am standing right now.