The word "Zen" is tossed about a lot, but real Zen is simple: it's coming back to this moment, to the natural, obvious simplicity of our true nature.
"Mindfulness" is all over the news these days. From the American Medical Association to the Harvard Business Review, the research is clear: meditation works for health, productivity, and insight.
Zen practitioners know this better than most. Zen, however, is about a lot more than stress reduction, efficiency in the workplace, inner peace, or even Enlightenment.
(A clever Zen student might say, "it's about a lot less, too.")
In 2007 I met the irreverent and iconoclastic Zen master, Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi. By that point, I'd been studying and training in Tibetan Buddhism (Dzochen) for over ten years under Lama Tsering Everest, but what I lacked was integration. I had my spiritual practice and insights here, my work there, my relationships over yonder, all separate from one another.
Jun Po had the wisdom and experience to show a path that integrated contemplative insight with day-to-day, real world life. It welcomed, even encouraged, skepticism and critical thinking, while pushing for radical emotional maturity.
Since our first meeting, Jun Po and I have collaborated on two books on Zen -- the award-winning A Heart Blown Open (Divine Arts Media, 2012), and The Heart of Zen (North Atlantic Books, 2014). Our first meeting about me writing his life story is a story in-and-of itself.
I was ordained by Jun Po as a Zen priest in 2012 and given my dharma name, Kogen Ananda. As the Rev. Kogen Ananda, I (mostly) go by my lay name, Keith.
In 2016, I was given the additional designation of sensei, or teacher, and authorized to transmit and teach this dharma. I also joined the Integral Zen (an offshoot of Junpo's Friends of Zen) board of directors to help and set the vision and direction of that organization moving forward.
You can read more about this journey in Sarah Beasley's interview of me, for Buddhist Door.