On Life's Terms an interview with Adam Tebbe

 How to Meditate, Interview – April 1, 2011


Interview with Adam Tebbe of Sweeping Zen

HTM: How did you get started with meditation? When did you begin meditating?

Tebbe: I began meditating on my own after reading some books on Buddhism, particularly The Compass of Zen by Zen master Seung Sahn. I'd went through a particularly tough breakup with a girlfriend at the time. This was around 2001 I guess. I was an angry young guy and the world centered around me - I deserved the breakup. It helped me grow. So, after I spent upwards of a year depressed and feeling sorry for myself, my sister sent me a copy of The Tao Te Ching (the Richard Wilhelm edition). I was drawn in from those opening lines:

"The Dao that can be expressed
is not the eternal Dao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name."

I'd never encountered anything like that before. That is how my interest in Eastern ways, if we can call them that, began. Slowly I began to read more and more books and came to realize that Zen was where my heart belonged. I wasn't prepared to sit with a group at this point, however.

So, aside from a couple visits to a local Dharma center and also the Indianapolis Zen Center later, my meditation practice was done at home. I remember reading online resources on how to construct an altar and I ordered a zafu and zabuton after I realized it kind of sucks sitting on pillows. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. That's how it began.

HTM: In what way did you manage tough situations (the breakup, for example) before you found meditation?

Tebbe: Cigarettes. Marijuana. I didn't manage tough situations well. It's not like meditation is the be all, end all, mind you. It is and it isn't. Sitting on a cushion doesn't magically make one a better human being. That, at least in my case, takes work. Certainly it helps as a stabilizing force and allows me to process some of the stresses in my life in a more sobered way.

I think when I say meditation isn't everything, I'm going off of a very limited, narrow definition of meditation. Most people think of seated meditation, right? In that way, meditation is effective but not all pervading. There are some who would probably disagree with me. I've just not found it to be so. Meditation is attending to, and caring for, my relationships. It means working through a litany of compulsions and shadows and, also, it means sitting on a cushion.

HTM: What was it in particular that caused you realize that meditation was going to work for you? How did you come to know that you had found something important?

Tebbe: I like the simplicity of it. I was diagnosed with ADD at a young age, minus the hyperactive component, and had always struggled with concentrating on just one thing. With ADD, it's like there are so many things within your sphere of consciousness competing for your attention. Now, zazen is a very barebones practice. Whether following the breath or, as I often did initially, on some object to hold in my awareness, it allows one to develop the faculties necessary for what might be called "single-pointed concentration." But, I don't meditate everyday.

Or, perhaps I can quote Rev. Rinsen Weik of the Toledo Zen Center, who recently said, "I sit everyday, except for the days where I don't sit." It isn't a compulsion for me as it was initially. Certainly it's a strong component to Zen practice but its usefulness is really found in how that concentration you develop carries over in to everyday activity.

I spend a lot of time at a computer which, admittedly, probably isn't the most healthy of exercises for me. But, my work requires it of me and I love my work. A meditation practice allows me to not outright reject those things we may say are harmful or not beneficial in our practice, like spending long hours working at a computer. Instead, meditation practice simply allows me to accept my life on the terms my life presents to me. So, meditation allows me to deal with life on life's terms. I'll say that.

HTM: Your words "meditation allows me to deal with life on life's terms" says so much. It is this level of acceptance that makes for the dropping of would otherwise be a fight with circumstances or an attempt to force outcomes. I get that. So many of us still struggle with what life brings. Thank you.

Tebbe:Thanks for the opportunity.