Back in my university years, one of my roommates convinced me one summer that we should enroll in a yoga class. At that time, yoga was not the massive lifestyle craze that it’s since become and I’d never personally taken the plunge.
Our instructor was a 6 foot tall man with a soothing voice and bright yellow bike shorts. He walked us through downward dog and the myriad other poses whose names I’ve now forgotten, before ending every class with a quiet meditation session.
All I can remember thinking as I laid on my yoga mat after every session was “Oh my word. Is this over? I’m hungry. What’s for lunch?”
I never really took to the concept of meditation, even as I got older. Stillness, patience, contemplation … these are not necessarily qualities that are ascribed to me. Still, on my visit to Kyoto in July, I decided to check out the daily English meditation session at Shunko-in, a subtemple of Myoshin-ji in northwestern Kyoto.
Rev Taka runs the meditation at Shunko-in. Fluent in English and a consultant for Google, he dispels a few notions about what a Buddhist priest should be or look like. He also dispels alot of notions about meditation. To our group of about 25 participants, he explained the general practice behind meditation, the specific poses that meditation often requires …. and then told us it’s okay to throw all of that out the window to find what truly works for us. If meditating for a minute at a time works, go ahead. If meditating while lying sprawled out on the floor works, go ahead. His message was simple: There is no wrong way to meditate.
He did lead us through some timed meditation sessions – the first one about 20 minutes and the second one lasting 5 minutes.
Have you ever meditated for 20 minutes?
That’s a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggg time, y’all.
I spent that time cataloging the many places in Kyoto I still wanted to eat at. I’m clearly no better at meditation than before.
But I appreciated the message that Rev Taka was trying to impart. I don’t HAVE to sit there for 20 minutes to get the benefits of meditation. It is in my power to find what works for me, and there’s no need to subscribe to a certain manner of meditation.
The meditation session also includes a brief temple tour, a peek at the temple’s raked stone garden, and a cup of matcha tea and a sweet. The entire experience lasts around 90 minutes and costs ¥2500.
You can also spend the night at Shunko-in, in their friendly guesthouse. For more details on all the temple’s programs, check out their English webpage. I highly recommend checking their website before you head there for a meditation, as the times are not always the same every day.