When gathering contributors for this series on mysticism and the contemplative life, I couldn’t NOT ask one of my dearest friends and trusted companions on the spiritual path. Steve and I have journeyed together through the twists and turns of life including marriage, divorce, children (I am honored to be the godmother of his son), ministry and just plain stuff. I am grateful for all the ways Steve has been a source of support for me in my life and ministry and he, along with the woman he loves, hold a very special place in my heart. Thank you Steve for your characteristically Zen conciseness. I admire how you can say in only a few words what it has taken me a lifetime to express! I love you brother!
Just Sit: Reflections on the Contemplative Life, from a Male Perspective
Christian Zen integrates Zen Meditation with Christian Contemplation. In this practice, men and women are invited to “be still and listen” (Psalm 46). One form of stillness in Christian Zen is sitting meditation (zazen). For me, the diligent practice of zazen offers insight into why it is important for me to practice sitting meditation. It helps me to remember my true nature, and live accordingly.
What is this true nature or “Big Self?” Are there male and female dimensions of Big Self? My short answer: I do not know. I can, however, offer some reflections on the contemplative life from a male perspective.
The heart is of primary interest in my Christian Zen practice. It is the “hearts of men” that Jesus emphasized. Similarly, the “Heart Sutra” is a central teaching in Mahayana Buddhism. In the stillness of sitting meditation is a spaciousness that allows gratitude and compassion for my male experience.
As a son, my heart aches when I sit with the joys of spontaneous play; the adventurous exploration of the deep woods, and the carefree flow of an aimless day.
As a father, my heart aches when I sit with the love of my son, and reflect on the teaching that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only son” (John 3:16).
As a partner, my heart aches when I sit with the great souled desire for intimacy, and the mystery of solitude greeting solitude.
And when the ache within the aches becomes too great to bear, I let go and just sit. I let go of my need to win, and to be right, and to have more, and even to understand. As I let go, I return to the moment.
May you listen with loving attentiveness to the present moment. May you remain at peace, free from unnecessary suffering.
May you practice steady beginner’s mind, and see things as they are. May you awake to your true nature, and live accordingly.
Steve Makar has been a student and teacher of the integrative practice of Christian Zen for more than 10 years. With a PhD in accounting and international economics, he also integrates the solitude of research with the ministry of teaching. Steve is a father of a teenage son, and partner with the woman he loves.