Zen is a form of Buddhism which emphasises direct experience and personal practice over the study of scriptures or doctrines. The essence of Zen is learning to ‘see into one’s own nature’ through personal practice. Zen developed in China in the 6th century and later travelled to Japan and southeast Asia. In the last fifty years, it has been growing in popularity in the West.
Buddhism itself is a method – rather than a religion – which holds out the prospect of an end to suffering through a series of practices which offer insight into the nature of reality. In its 2,500 years of history it has developed many forms and has spawned much writing, debate and a diversity of practice. Nevertheless, its principles remain fairly simple – though challenging.
The Ordinary Mind school of Zen was founded by the American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck in 1995. The Ordinary MInd approach to Zen emphasises working with the emotions of everyday life rather than avoiding or escaping them. It is a psychologically-minded Zen practice, neither sectarian nor didactic, built around the needs of Western people practicing Zen in the context of their everyday lives. You can read the statement of purpose of the Ordinary Mind school here.