Michael Keating is an international development consultant who just completed a one-year posting in Afghanistan. Before that he worked in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and most other places in West Africa for organizations such as the World Bank and the U.S. Dept. of State. He was a civilian consultant at the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Ft. Huachucha Arizona in the 1970s. He has been a life-long adherent of the practice of Zen Buddhism.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Jackson
There is no surprise that the samurai class in Japan took to the practice of Zen meditation. It blended nicely with the needs and values of their militaristic lifestyle, particularly in dealing with the issue of facing death, but also more broadly with its inclination toward orderliness, self-discipline and focus — very useful tools in training for the martial arts.
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sara Csurilla
To those who do it there is a self-evident answer to that question: it works. How it works, why it works and for whom it works varies, but anyone who seriously practices zen meditation on a daily basis can usually experience the following: less stress, more focus and a general sense of well-being.