The mindfulness movement, it seems to me, was once an unconventional practice among Buddhists until it was discovered that its wisdom could be imparted to the world. Similarly, there seems to be another movement – a Zen-Ignatian movement – that also has the capacity to impart wisdom to the world.
Zazen and non-reactivity
Zen is a meditative way toward the infinite emptiness (who some may call God). Zazen is the name of the silent sitting meditation and it is done effectively in the half-lotus position which I have yet to master. Neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson has shown that mindfulness meditation, similar to zazen, may improve affective responding and emotion regulation associated with the almond-shaped area of the brain known as the amygdala. Comments of meditators who scored higher on non-reactivity include: “When I have distressing thoughts or images, I just notice them and let them go”, and “I watch my feelings without getting lost in them” (Richard et al., 2018).
Ignatian contemplation and kindness
Ignatian spirituality, from Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), is a way toward gratitude for all things (or ‘finding God in all things’). Ignatian contemplation is a central stillness practice involving the imagination, feelings and senses which I am quite familiar with. I believe that Dr David R. Hamilton would support my view in the physiological benefits of Ignatian contemplation because it is very similar to the popular loving kindness meditation. He says: “If you close your eyes and vividly imagine the same kindness [acts of kindness], your brain will also produce oxytocin [the kindness hormone]. It’s down to how you feel, and you can feel the same warmth and connection whether you’re being kind in reality or simply in your imagination” (Hamilton, 2019).
Finally, I would like to leave you with a trailer for an upcoming film on Zen and spirituality in Ireland. Although it doesn’t explicitly refer to the Zen-Ignatian movement, I believe this can be inferred through the film’s main character. His name is Roshi Robert Kennedy SJ – a Zen master and a Jesuit (Ignatian) priest. Click here to enjoy ».