Ordinary Mind UK
Ordinary Mind UK is a part of the Ordinary Mind Zen School founded by Charlotte Joko Beck, embodying her vision of a Zen practice adapted to the needs of Western students practicing in the context of our everyday lives.
Led by our teacher Malcolm Martin, OMUK currently offers a weekly online Zendo meeting on Tuesday evenings, with zazen, a Dharma talk and discussion. There is also the opportunity to work one to one with our teacher over Zoom or by email.
Over the course of 2022 we will be expanding our programme online to include sesshin retreats and more frequent sittings. As students interested in Ordinary Mind are geographically widely dispersed around the UK and beyond, we have decided to focus our efforts on working online via Zoom, allowing us to support students on an equal footing wherever they are based. However, pandemics permitting, we will also begin meeting in person.
If your sangha, school or other group would like to know more about Ordinary Mind, please get in touch! We may be able to organise a talk or practice session, and would very much like to hear from you.
Join us on Tuesdays 7.15 - 9.00 pm
WHAT WE DO
The core of our practice is zazen, sitting 'meditation'. We simply sit still, very still, and observe what happens in our thoughts, our perceptions, our bodily feelings. We become aware of their ebbing and flowing, of their constant shifting and the patterns and interconnections they form over time. We become aware of our desire for things to be other than they are, right here, right now, whether that's the pain in my knee, or the difficulties in my relationships. We work with this awareness in our everyday life, in discussion with other students and individual work with a teacher.
NEW TO ZEN? NEW TO ZEN?
Zen is a slow approach to living. It shouldn't promise to transform your life in a weekend. The word ‘Zen’ actually means ‘meditation’, and sitting still in mediation (‘zazen’) is the core of what we do. While it originated in the Buddhist tradition, today Zen is practiced by people of ‘all faiths or none’, and while both our teacher Malcolm Martin and his own teacher, Barry Magid identify as Buddhist, for many Zen is a part of their life alongside the faith they were born into or have adopted.
Zen began around fifteen hundred years ago in China and was later transplanted to Japan. From the beginning, Zen expressed itself through different schools with variations in their approach. Since the nineteen sixties there has been an explosion of Zen practice in the West, and the development of new schools that try to maintain continuity with Zen's tradition while adapting it to be appropriate to our contemporary lives.
The modern Mindfulness Movement has branded meditation practice as a virtual panacea to make your life better and more successful: a smarter, healthier, kinder and more focussed you...good luck with that! Zen makes no promises of any kind. Many who practice Zen long term over years and decades speak of a slow and deep transformation of their relationship to themselves, to other people and to the world, in a way that can be difficult to describe fully. But there can be no expectations.
MY ORDINARY MIND
What do we want out of life? Happiness? Purpose? Love? Riches? Whatever we think we want, we all believe our life should work out in just the way we want it to, and to be brutally honest it mostly just doesn’t. In reality all of us suffer — are sometimes unhappy, perplexed, frustrated, angry — worse, for some of us these emotions form a steady background to our lives. We can blame the world as a whole, God, or the people around us. Or we can blame ourselves...I’m too lazy, stupid, naive, or just plain bad to deserve getting what I want. Most of us try both, looking endlessly for the fix that will either make the world do what I want, or make me a better and more capable person.
Zen won’t fix us. A lifelong Zen practice won’t mean I’m always happy, won’t mean I don’t get sad or depressed. It won’t mean I don’t feel pain and suffer when my partner leaves me or I get diagnosed with cancer. But what if, fundamentally, there wasn’t a problem? Not because of the promise of some future heaven, or because I should just rise above my very real experience of pain right here and now. But rather, what if these apparent problems aren’t something separate from me and my life? What if it isn’t a problem to have problems? What if I didn’t really need fixing anyway?
The distinctive contribution to Zen practice of the Ordinary Mind Zen School has been to take the everyday experience of our lives — and especially what causes us difficulty, suffering — as the subject, the raw material, with which we work in our Zen practice. Our relationships with our partners, children, parents and friends are particularly fertile for opportunities to practice, precisely because of their complexities and misunderstandings. Balancing our hopes and fantasies of how we would like our lives to be, with the everyday realities of earning a living, raising a family and caring for those we love. Coming to see how the ways we react to life’s stresses relate both to patterns we formed in early childhood, and the prevailing values of our society. In all this there is an obvious overlap with different kinds of therapy, but the aim of Zen is ultimately quite different from this. It’s not primarily about becoming happier myself, or even less of a problem to those around me, although both of these may happen! Barry Magid, my own teacher and founder of our Zendo in New York, is clear that he sees Zen as not finally ‘for’ any purpose whatsoever, but showing how we ourselves simply are impermanence, interconnection, and perfection.
Malcolm Martin: Ordinary Mind UK Teacher
'Not-separate to ourselves, not-separate to each other'
'Strangely, this pandemic has brought together online a group of us interested in Ordinary Mind, ranging from beginners to those with decades of experience. This is the core of OMUK, and if you think you might be interested in our approach, or have enjoyed Joko Beck's or Barry Magid's books, please do get in touch. Besides our regular meetings I'm always happy to discuss Zen related topics by Zoom or email. Whether you are part of a group or working on your own, as we are keen to offer support for your practice in any way we can.'
Malcolm Martin founded Ordinary Mind Zendo UK in 2019, and is the only Ordinary Mind teacher working in the UK, having studied with and been given authorisation to teach by Barry Magid, the founder of Ordinary Mind Zendo in New York. As well as leading OMUK Malcolm teaches with Ordinary Mind in the United States and Australia. For the last nine years he has worked as a Buddhist chaplain in different UK prisons, and is writing a new guide to the Zen Precepts as a socially engaged practice: 'Prison Face — The Zen Precepts as if People Mattered'
Ordinary Mind Zen School
The Ordinary Mind Zen School was founded by Charlotte Joko Beck and former students in 1995. Today there are teachers and practice groups across the United States, Europe and Australia.