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Patti Gould speaks on Zen Meditation taking the Backward Step

Patti Gould speaks on Zen Meditation taking the Backward Step

Patti Gould

Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa once opened a Zen class by drawing a V on a large white sheet of poster paper. He then asked those present what he had drawn. Most responded that it was a bird. “No,” he told them. “It’s the sky with a bird flying through it.”

Meditation is now mainstream. It teaches us that how we pay attention determines our experience. When we’re in a constant doing or controlling mode, our attention narrows and we perceive objects in the foreground—the bird, a thought, a strong feeling. In these moments we don’t perceive the sky—the background of experience, the ocean of awareness. The good news is that through meditation practice, we can intentionally incline our minds toward not controlling and toward an open attention.

In the Zen tradition, we shift our attention from focusing on the foreground of experience to resting in pure being called “the backward step.” Whenever we step out of thought or emotional reactivity and remember the presence that’s here, we’re taking the backward step.

If we wake up out of a confining story of who we are and reconnect with our essential awareness, we’re taking the backward step. When our attention shifts from a narrow fixation on any object—sound, sensation, thought—and recognizes the awake space that holds everything, we’re taking the backward step. We come to this realization when there is nowhere else to step. No anything. We’ve relaxed back into the immensity and silence of awareness and rest. In this class you will learn that this place of rest already exists right here in our own bodies.

The most important point in this class is to learn how to just sit and be very comfortable and restful. It is a practice and a tool that can be applied to any life endeavors.

If this is a practice that you would like to learn, please join us on Wednesday, Oct. 21, from 3 to 4 p.m. to learn the simple practice of Zen Meditation. Email [email protected] to save your spot!