The Formality of Form

Last weekend my husband and I had an introduction to Zen-meditation as I wanted to know the form this meditation had to offer and the difference between other meditation forms I have tried. Mindfulness and loving kindness meditations being a few of them. 

As the instructor was explaining the origin, practice and form she said jokingly "But don't worry, we won't hit you with sticks!" and I was like "Excuse me, what do you mean with that?!" And she explained that in the Japanese ZaZen tradition when you are learning this form of meditation, you really have to learn the form - when you are not sitting up straight enough, you'll get hit by a stick in your back to re-position your posture! The shock showed on my face and she said "yeah, Zen-meditation is not for wussies! But like I said we won't hit you with sticks." And gosh I just laughed and laughed. Of course I meant no disrespect to the teacher, but it just sounded so... unkind and so unlike the loving kindness meditations I have been practicing. 

It reminded me of the stories I heard about cursive writing, back in the day when your writing form was not up to par, you got hit with a stick on your hand! So I imagined someone watching me, with a stick in hand, checking if my written meditation was up to form, in both posture and cursive writing, and I realized that, Gosh I would be in big trouble! That is what made me laugh. (also don't we hit ourselves with a mental stick enough, already?)

Thankfully the instructor did explain that the form of the meditation is just a formality and that it's purpose is to sit still, so you can invite stillness to sit with you. And eventually to sit within you. 

So whatever form we choose to embrace, the invitation is the same. And it is to sit,  pause from doing and shift into being wherein lies the stillness.  In this space you can differentiate between thoughts and emotions and our action and reaction patterns. And make a clearer decisions based on what you truly want. 

For more information on which form might suit you best I would advise you to read this article written by Tamara Lechner on the Chopra Center

Seeing that this meditation form is just a formality, I am sticking with my tried and true meditation practice, but I wholeheartedly thank the instructor for showing me, the path I am on is the one I need to continue. 



  1. What an interesting experience. One thing that I have learned especially when I was exploring a few different forms of yoga.Yes there are different practices but there are also different teachers. So even if a certain practice didn't resonate with me, I would always try another teacher because each teacher brings so much to their instruction that no experience is the same. I say this not to tell you what to do, but to suggest that you stay open to other possible entries into other forms of meditation. There is room for many and hopefully your next experience will speak volumes.
    Hope you are having a great day. I am working through a recent loss of a loved one to prostate cancer and trying to sit with my feelings. When someone passes on, so many emotions fill me - sadness, regret, fear, anger etc. But I am trying to sit with it because I know it is another opportunity for me to grow.
    Peace be with you my new friend.
    Belinda (#32)

    1. Hi Belinda, thank you for sharing your experiences with me which I fully appreciate. And you are right, different practices and different teachers bring altogether a different experience. This post was also not to deter, but to encourage by finding a practice in a form that fits. Which means trying all sorts of different forms out there... but also understanding that the core of mediation is an invitation to sit, in whatever form you choose.
      I am really sorry for your loss - you are not alone in feeling all those emotions when someone passes. May that be of some comfort to you, my friend. These are trying times, experience of loss is definitely an opportunity for us to grow and it takes a brave person to accept it at such. With heartfelt condolences, Cheetarah


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