Fortune Cookies and Master Po
I grew up in Los Angeles, a city blessed with a lively Chinatown. Every other Friday evening, my family would drive there to eat at our favorite restaurant and then take a walk around the streets, looking into the little shops smelling of incense and ginseng and filled with colorful knickknacks. I especially remember lots of Buddha statues: serenely sitting Buddhas, laughing standing Buddhas, Buddhas with ten arms and their hands in mudras.
We also regularly watched the TV show Kung Fu. The image that remains with me nearly forty years later is of Master Po, young Caine's teacher, sitting in meditation in a quiet garden. His student tries to sneak past him. Without opening his eyes, Master Po speaks, letting the boy understand there is more to knowing than what the eyes and ears alone can convey.
So, judging from these examples, I somehow got the notion meditation is sitting in a relaxed way allowing experience to flow past without grasping on to it or judging it in any way.
Just to let it be.
And every so often as the mood struck me, I would do just that, emulating the serenity I saw in the Buddha statues and in the blind Master Po of Kung Fu fame.
Ah, what a silly boy I was, believing I could meditate! Just like that!
Study, Practice, More Study, More Practice
However, my intuition was confirmed not many years later when, in 1978, I had my first formal lesson in meditation at the Los Angeles Zen Center, then under the tutelage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi. I did not stay with Zen practice long, feeling it overly scripted, and eventually turned to the yogic traditions of tantra and, especially, Patanjali. I spent nearly two decades practicing a particular form of ashtanga yoga, eventually broadening my experience to include various forms of Buddhist practice.
I have never traveled to India or anywhere else in order to find teachers, nor did I seek out famous or well-known figures. I took to heart the teachings that said everything we need can be found inside. The teachers I'm indebted to were humble people who will likely never be known outside the circle of their immediate - and deeply grateful - students.
And so, continuing in that tradition - in many ways, a non-tradition - I'm happy to help you along your own path by offering pointers I’ve found helpful along mine.