Yamada-koun Roshi

I first practiced Zen meditation in 1973 when I returned to Japan for university. Over the next four years, I practiced at the Jesuit Zen Retreat founded by Father Enomiya Lasalle. Later, I was introduced to the Japanese Zen Master that Father Lasalle studied under, Yamada-Koun Roshi. Yamada Roshi had a number of westerners practicing at the zen center attached to his house in Kamakura and there were many Protestant and Catholic priests and nuns that studied there.

During an open Question and Answer Session, I recall that an Anglican Priest asked Yamada Roshi, “In short, what is Zen?” Yamada Roshi replied, “It is becoming intimate with something.” The point was then made that in the West, the focus is on “the something“- that is naming it- God, Jehovah or Allah. Whereas in the East, the focus is on “becoming intimate“.

Having practiced Zen now for over 45 years, I have to say that I have never found a feeling of peace as profound as that of having a baby sleep on my chest. It was not until I became a grandfather in 2014 that I discovered this. The peace I found when my grandson, Max, slept on my chest was born out by physical measurement. I wear a device on my wrist that monitors my heart beat and tracks sleep at night. Not long after I began helping take care of Max during the work week, I noticed that my sleep monitor was showing me sleeping during the day. What was happening was that while Max slept on my chest, my respiration and heartbeat slowed down and blood pressure fell to the point where my sleep monitor thought that I was sleeping.

I am sure that this is nothing new to you mothers out there. But to a man in his 70s, it came as a blessing.