Translated by UCHACA
Experience Zen Meditation at Ryōsokuin Temple in Kyoto
Are you stressed out? Or is rainy season getting you down? It might be a good idea to get away from it all and try some Zen meditation at Ryōsokuin Temple in Kyoto.
Written by Atsuko Yagura
Time flies so fast when we are busy. People often feel impatient or frustrated with their fast-paced, stressful lives. Moreover, many might find themselves becoming depressed, especially with the start of rainy season coming, where the sun sometimes disappears for days at a time.
In times like these, it might be a good idea to get away from it all and try some Zen meditation. By learning how to control your breathing and blend into nature, the formerly depressing sound of the falling rain may become a comforting, pleasant sound.
Experience Zen Meditation for an Hour
Ryōsokuin is a sub-temple within Kenninji Temple, located in Gion in Kyoto. The Zen meditation experience begins at 8:30 am. In the moment you pass through a gate of this temple, you will notice a change in the atmosphere around you. After a brief reception, where you will be required to remove your accessories, gadgets, and so on, you head towards the main temple and take your seat upon a cushion overlooking the courtyard.
You can experience Zen meditation for 1 hour. For the first 25 minutes, a priest or monk will give a lecture on the basic tenets of Zen meditation, the next 25 minutes are spent on practicing this, and in the last 10 minutes, you enjoy green tea and listen to the preaching of a priest or monk.
How do You Sit Zazen-style?
You might think that Zen meditation is full of harsh ascetic practices, like being beaten with a switch for no reason by the monk, say if you fidget during the meditation, or shift to get the feeling back in your legs.
But in reality, you are meant to sit down on the cushion more comfortably: finding the best way to help yourself meditate deeply is the most important thing in Zen meditation.
When you hear the bell chime, you slowly begin counting, one... two... on and on. With a beautiful Japanese garden right before your eyes, in either rain or shine the peaceful scenery and deeply calming experience of the meditation itself is sure to melt away your stress.
Should you find those unwelcome stresses start creeping back in, or if your concentration just runs out, simply turn yourself towards the priest, or fold your hands in the manner instructed, and he will use the wooden staff in his hands to strike your shoulder/shoulderblade area twice to correct your concentration. I can't say that this doesn't sting, but it is really quite effective in getting your mind back on track. The suddenness of it does drive that stress right away.
An Aside from the Head Priest
Here is an interesting story I heard from the head priest when I visited.
When you begin Zen meditation, you may sometimes have unnecessary thoughts running around the edges of your mind or you might feel nervous or anxious about whether or not you are good at meditating. For example, you might think things like "my foot's gone numb" or "everyone else seems so calm".
The head priest told me that, whenever you feel like this, your answer to that nagging little voice should be "So what?"
"My foot's gone numb." "So what?"
"Everyone else seems so calm." "So what?"
By dismissing these thoughts as unimportant, (which they really are), you will find yourself better able to concentrate on your own meditation.
By the way, this trick also works when trying to do other things, for example when I train for running full marathons. If I start to find myself thinking things like "my foot hurts and want to stop running", I said to myself "ok,so what?" over and over, and at last, I ran the entire distance! I really appreciate his advice.
Zen Meditation on Rainy Days
The Zen meditation experience lasts only for one hour. However, you will definitely feel quite refreshed and relaxed afterwards. Though the garden in the courtyard that the Zen meditation experience overlooks is incredibly beautiful on sunny days, I personally recommend trying it on a rainy day. Meditating with the sight of the garden and the sound of the rain really helps you to feel that you've become one with nature.
If you find yourself stressed out and want to relax or are simply interested in Zen meditation, please try this experience especially in the rain, but also in shine.
Address: Higashiyama, Yamato-ōjidōri、Shijōsagaru 4, Komatsuchō 591
Schedule: Check the official homepage for details
Application: By telephone, fax or reservation form on Homepage
Phone Reception: 10:00-16:00
Phone Number: 075-561-3216
Fax Number: 075-561-3270
Credit Cards: -
Language: The lecture is given in Japanese; if you want to participate in an English lecture, you must have a group of 20 or more members.
Closest Station: Gion-Shijō Station（祇園四条駅), Keihan Line or Kawaramachi Station (河原町駅), Hankyū Line
Access：7 minute walk from Gion-Shijō Station, 10 minute walk from Kawaramachi Station
Experience Fee: 1000 yen for 1 hour
Homepage: Ryōsokuin Temple (Japanese only)