This was the instruction, at the final class of my Meditation & Zen Buddhism Course.
My respons: "It has been a huge sigh of relief. I've been told, on many occasions, that I'm naive, I need to grow up and I need to realize that the world is a tough place, it's eat or be eaten. But here, I've realized that maybe I'm not crazy after all, my sunny outlook on life isn't something I need to rid myself of and it's perfectly ok to be happy and content.
Also, it has been great to be around people who are trying to solve their personal problems, and problems of the world, through kindness and compassion."
Let me take you back a few months. Last winter I started thinking about meditation, as a great tool to have in life's toolbox. My understanding of meditation was the ability to calm the mind and to be able to see things for what they truly are. I thought it might be a good thing to learn while life is good and easy, so that in the future, if I need it, I would already have a head start.
The step to explore meditation was not a very big one. My grandparents were both devout Buddhists and avid meditators, so even if I never took part, or knew much about it, Buddhism and meditation wasn't anything foreign or mystical.
After New Year, I started the exploration in the privacy of my home. I Googled books and articles and ended up reading a couple. A book that I found particularly approachable was "How to Meditate", by Pema Chödrön. But the more I read the more I understood the benefits of participating in guided meditation.
After some more research (i.e. Yelp) I found Chung Tai Zen Center in Sunnyvale, just a couple of miles from where I live. They offered free Meditation and Zen Buddhist classes throughout the year, different level courses, each lasting 12 weeks. Once a week, one hour of meditation, followed by one hour of Buddhist teachings.
In all honesty, I was somewhat hesitant at first. I wanted the one hour meditation, but wasn't sure about the one hour lecture that followed. Would they try to "recruit" me and rope me into their religion? But I was still curious, and also interested in how it all tied together. Curiosity won. And I'm so very glad it did. The lectures were interesting and inspiring in so many ways, and it gave depth to the meditation I wouldn't want to be without.
I ended up doing Level 1, and this week, I'm starting Level 2. I've found all of it very interesting, very thoughtful and sometimes very challenging. I expect I will want to share some of the things I've learned and some of my personal insights moving forward. But for now, I'll leave you with something inspired from a fellow meditator. This older gentleman presented himself as a devout Catholic, born, raised and practicing. When he is asked how he consolidates his Catholic beliefs with attending classes at the temple, he simply says "There is only one God, but Buddha is a great teacher".
To make his quote my own, "I don't believe there is a God/Gods, but I believe Buddha is a great teacher".