Yesterday's post produced a number of thoughtful responses to which I'm incapable of responding in kind.
I'm still bothered by the question of what we do when we meditate. David L's comment most accurately captured my own puzzlement: "Any answer that pops up seems trite, glib."
I'm not ready to let go of this, however. Perhaps we can consider the word training, a term we sometimes use interchangeably with practice.
Athletes train in order to develop certain skills and capacities. Is that what happens when we meditate?
Some say that if we undertake Zen training, we'll develop compassion, wisdom, awareness, love and/or the ability to stay put. We might even wake up. (Which, obviously, I could use right now.)
Such "promises" suggest that the mind (?) is like a muscle in need of a good regimen.
But do we really think that sitting on a cushion is going to produce these transformations?
Dang, I just realized that I'm channeling Nanyue right now.
Here's the story:
One day Nanyue found Mazu sitting alone in the meditation hall and asked him why he was meditating. Mazu answered, "I wish to become a buddha."
Nanyue then picked up a roof tile and began rubbing it with a stone. Mazu asked, "What are you doing, teacher?"
Nanyue replied, "I want to polish this tile and make a mirror." Mazu said, "How can you make a mirror by rubbing a tile?"
Nanyue replied, "How can you make a buddha my meditating?"
Of course, some people may read this and turn away from meditation - a certain mistake. Right?