What’s that sound in the Zendo?

February 6, 2012 | Mindfulness


Everyone is hushed in the meditation room….up here it’s called a zendo. We are at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe on a four day retreat entitled Zen Brain: Consciousness and the Fundamental Nature of Mind.  Some pretty serious stuff.  And we are currently preparing for a talk by Dr. Cliff, a PhD from the Center for Mind and Brain at UC Davis.

Everyone bows upon entry in the zendo, then again at their cushions.  The sixty or so people around me are assuming their meditative airs: eyes closed, deep even breathing, awareness pulling in.  I catch eyes with Dr. Cliff as he heads out the side exit.

And then…what’s that sound in the zendo?

Could it be?

All of the esteemed presenters wear a lavalier mike for their presentations….the realization of what we are hearing sweeps across the zendo like a wave at a basketball game.

It seems Dr. Cliff was really well hydrated.

And in the next moment, another sound rarely heard in the meditation room.  Laughter.

When Dr. Cliff reappears we give him a round of applause.  He belly laughs when he hears what just happened and says, “I knew something was wrong when I heard laughter in the zendo.”

But actually, and I think he would agree, something was right.

If awareness is all inclusive, then it necessarily includes levity.   Being spiritual can’t be mutually exclusive to laughter.  That would be like a sky excluding sun.

The less attached we are to life being any different than it is, the more we can laugh at ourselves when we do.  The more we can laugh at the frequent humiliations that many times come with just being alive.  Like leaving our lavalier mikes on in the restroom.

It would seem that a long term meditator would be a serious soul, all tea and incense and equipoise.  But most that I’ve met had sparkling eyes.

Laughter in the meditation room.  What would that mean to you?

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