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Facing the Wall, Facing the Buddha

Facing the Wall, Facing the Buddha August 29, 2021

I used to face the wall in meditation. It’s what is (usually) taught in the Zen tradition. Eyes open, face the wall. It’s the practice that Bodhidharma recommended. He called it “wall gazing”

That’s what I did for many years and what I recommended as a practice when people would ask. Face the wall. If you don’t have a blank wall, find a blank spot on the floor that you can look at, not straight down, at a 45 degree angle.

That was my practice when I meditated at home. Facing a blank wall. I’d go to a Buddhist temple where they don’t do that, where they face a shrine, and I would close my eyes there. That isn’t because I like closing my eyes, but because I was worried that the shrine would distract me.

I think if you did a survey you’d find that about half the people that meditate do it with open eyes and half do it with closed eyes, regardless of what they’re told in meditation instructions and what the other people around are doing.

I don’t face the wall anymore. (I also don’t call myself a zen buddhist anymore either, but that’s another story).

Now I sit facing the life-size Buddha in my living room.

This statue was a gift. I started meditating in front of it and it became a habit. I wasn’t trying to make it a habit, but here we are.

If our practice forms evolve naturally, should we let them?

I imagine there is some great variety of opinion on this. Plenty of people would say you should stick to your practice method, that you should stay with it no matter what and not change. That works for some people, but others get burned out that way.

I also have a statue garden in my backyard but I haven’t tried meditating out there yet.

Some people say that when there are sincere practitioners and images of the Buddha, helpful spirits and things also dwell there. I’m not sure about that. But I do know that having these images around motivates and inspires me. I’m facing the Buddha instead of facing the wall because more and more it feels sacred to me. I was staunchly in the secular Buddhist category for a long time and I really resisted the more ‘religious’ aspects of Buddhism, but my thinking has really evolved on all these issues too. Now I’m not so sure.


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