Working with koans as a group is an important part of our practice of Zen. When we work in groups with koans, we embrace whatever in our lives rises to meet the koan. That becomes our gate of entry. It is compelling but also transparent. The brightness appears through whatever is in front of us, whether beautiful or difficult.
Groups give us a chance to listen too. When we hear someone without any agenda we meet life at a deeper level. It is fairly common for someone to say ‘I listened to the sound of the rain and it was inside me and I became one with the rain. The colors are fresher and I’m in love with the world.’ Common or garden experiences of freedom like this are exactly what the ancient masters used to notice. And it’s the same with being with people—like being with the rain. Koan meditation is just consciousness, it’s a natural capacity that is always available. Sometimes we notice it as if putting a hand in a river. The koan work changes our lives on its own; it’s not really about expertise or holding your mouth right—more a matter of not getting in the way.
Working with a koan in a group gives you a chance to let go of your ideas about how others might perceive you. You can let go of managing other people’s impressions and live for yourself, which is to live for the universe.
Our meetings start with meditation followed by tea and then we discuss a koan. Koan for the week is sent out prior to each meeting.