In my twenties, I used to attend sesshins (a week’s retreat) and evening meditations at a Zen Centre. I was spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally intensely drawn to this religious practice: even though, or perhaps because, I didn’t understand the teachings.
Yet, the words of the teachings, the talks given by the Zen master, the chanting of the mantras instilled a sense of peace in me, while at the same time, provoked questions about who I am, where I am, and what am I doing with my life. Even though I stopped attending sesshins and meditating, I have not stopped asking myself the questions.
One of the things the Zen teachings say that puzzled me was that in order to practice Zen you must have unshakable faith. It is not the word unshakable that I found disconcerting, rather the word faith.
What is faith? Where does it stem from? How does it feel? I envisioned it to be something like a combination of inner conviction, knowledge, fiery spirit, wisdom, and infallibility all in one. In my case, my faith was intangible, not unshakable.
In the last while, I have discovered a new concept of faith; far more humble than the previous one I believed in. Maybe faith is the quiet yearning for a dream to come true, the pull of an unfulfilled wish, the need to say a prayer, the empathy to embrace another’s tragedy, or the wisdom to know when to surrender, to accept defeat, to rejoice in the day, or just to be grateful for tender mercies… faith is just being the person I am meant to be.