Watching

Last night I went to the Zen Center to teach a brief meditation intro class. While the Zen Center was closed during the height of the pandemic, this class happened virtually via Zoom and has only recently moved back in-person.

Teaching meditation online is…interesting. It’s perfectly possible to tell someone the basics of Zen meditation via Zoom: here is how to keep your body, breath, and mind. But when you teach meditation in person, you can hear the person next to you breathing, and you have a peripheral sense of their posture: are they nodding, slouching, or slumping?

When you teach meditation on Zoom, you can see your students’ faces, but you don’t have a three-dimensional, multisensory sense of their physical presence. Watching someone meditate is about as interesting as watching paint dry, but meditating alongside someone gives you a much more intimate understanding of how present they are.

Teaching a thing is only partly about talking: telling students about Zen is as helpful as telling someone about a delicious and nourishing meal. If you want to learn how to meditate, sit beside someone else who is meditating, and like an old ox teaching a youngster how to pull a straight furrow, your yoke-mate will teach you more than words can say.