GRANVILLE – It was in a temple in Japan that Pastor Dwight Davidson first tried sitting Zen.
He and his wife were living in Japan as missionaries and were invited to try the meditative discipline with a friend. Sitting Zen is exactly what it sounds like: sitting. The aim is to suspend all judgmental thinking, letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without engaging with them.
It took some time to clear his head and focus on the present, but what Davidson felt in those still moments made a big impact.
“I found it amazingly refreshing,” he said. “I began incorporating it as a part of my own practice of prayer for many years. And then I thought, ‘I’m already doing this. Why not just open it up to others to try?’”
So he did. Since June, interested members of the United Church of Granville have joined Davidson for 20 minutes on Thursday nights to sit in Zen together.
The first time Davidson invited church members to sit Zen with him, a young mother of three approached him after the session was over and said, “That was profound.”
And all she or anyone else did was sit.
“The past I carry with me and tend to rehearse has no reality at the moment, and neither does the future that I spend so much time planning and obsessing over. They exist in a secondary reality,” Davidson said. “There is no judgment in the place we are in when we sit Zen. We’re just existing.”
Davidson sometimes gets questions from people about how he practices both Christianity and Zen, but he argues the two are not incompatible. Firstly, Zen is not a religion but rather a discipline. Any person of any faith could find benefits in Zen, Davidson said.
If anything, sitting Zen has helped Davidson strengthen his faith. By getting rid of all his judgmental thoughts, he has been able to live a more compassionate life, which is certainly in line with Jesus’ teachings, he said.
“We in Christian churches often talk about salvation, but what does salvation really mean if it doesn’t include liberation from our egos and the freedom to genuinely care about others and the world? That has to be a part of it, or our salvation doesn’t matter at all,” Davidson said.