On Sunday September 20th we had a Soto Priest grace the yoga centre to give a talk on Zen Meditation practice. It’s not often that you have a priest drop by, but Brad Warner is not your average priest. In fact you wouldn’t know this at first glance. He looks a bit like the nerd in headphones, with glasses, ruffled hair, old jeans and a rock t-shirt. Nerd is a word he often irreverently uses to describe himself. Yet there is something that sets him apart and gives him the air of a deeper understanding…
Most of the workshop was in a Q&A format with Alan May asking some perceptive questions that sparked many an enlightening story. Brad doesn’t like to use the word enlightenment or awakening, but you can’t help but look into his chunky rimmed eyeglasses and think ‘blimey this guy has been places’.
He has certainly been places. From performing in punk rock bands to living in Japan and working for the guy who created Godzilla. Brad discovered Zen literally on a whim to fill credit hours while at University. Flipping through a syllabus catalogue he picked a Zen Meditation class and that was the start – or the end of it. His journey took a new path by way of ‘spooky Zen Temples’, encounters with other “Zen nerds”, meditation "freak outs’ (or enlightenment to you and I, though he does not consider enlightenment a good word to use to describe these experiences).
Brad’s entertaining and frank observations of being on the path of Zen, interwoven with a life of normalcy complete with heartbreaks, punk music, and all the stuff that normal people get up to, was both refreshing and inspiring.
Zen meditation had a frosty and stern appeal to me before meeting Brad. Sitting for hours, back straight with some robed monk glaring at you with a menace that he might at any minute get up and kick your ass with all the Karate stuff that he has tucked up under those robes. Yeah, move a hair on you head or its curtains for you! Not for me. Too rigid too much formality.
Brad tears all this down to a healthy well balance practice. No robes, no inscrutable glances, no chop to the back of the head for dozing off. He brings humour and no nonsense to a practice of meditation that is in line with everything that we are doing at the Shala.
‘yes, awakening is like getting up in the morning and thinking I’ve done it, I’ve arrived! Then to realize you have to go to work’ So true. Brads candid and heartfelt teachings on how to navigate those ‘dark nights’ in meditation, those times of fear, self- loathing and uncertainty touched all of us in the room. So now I understand Zen…Not! Well, like the old famous koan questions - what is the sound of one hand clapping? Brad had inspired me to keep asking. Thanks dude!
Brad is a prolific writer with 10 books firmly under his jean belt and something of a cultish following, for more on Brad see his website.