Dali Grandma quoted me the other day when I said somewhere that practicing to improve our samsaric conditions is silly. I can't believe I said that! I think of the Lankavatara, again:
Samsara is an illusion, but Karma is relentless
Drinking this cup of Cafe Du Monde coffee is an improvement of my samsara! And it's giving me the strength to write this blog. And I am willing to accept the karma of this coffee, and drink it again tomorrow! This is why Baoche is fanning himself. It's samsara, but what else do I know at this moment? I don't know.
Readers, you don't have to go far back in my life on this blog, or my first blog which is linked somewhere here, to see where I was. Yesterday, my crew leader hugged me while I cried because of something that happened on the farm; when I was 15, as a mason's apprentice, I was getting buckets of mortar thrown at my head, knocked face first into the mud. I was in a barrel of crabs, and I had to get out into this barrel of...sloths...cute, loving, hugging sloths. I am happier here than ever before, and by here, I mean my practice. I mean where I live, under my little blue rakusu (small kesa!). Under my little blue robe of the Buddha.
So, when someone in need e-mails, I answer. I'm putting it here because I spent a long time on it, and it's in lieu of what I was going to write, which I might write next anyway, because I'm really excited about yesterday! Also, I want to put myself out there as someone who wants help to keep the Buddha way, and offer support for you to keep the Buddha way. And before you read on, SHITSUREI ITASHIMASU...Sorry for my many mistakes.
"I'm interested to learn more about your lifestyle/religion.I need change and positive perspective in my life."
Thanks for asking! I've been at it for 10 years now, and I'm living in a monastery training to become a priest. I keep my mouth shut around friends and family, because their eyes glaze over. I'll try and keep this simple and not indulge too much.
Suffering is what brings most people to practice, about 98 percent. Suffering is what brought the Buddha to practice. He grew up a prince with many girlfriends, lots of food, lots of everything. Things were going well until he left the palace, just for a day. He saw old age, sickness, and death, and that no one was outside of these three realms. He ventured to end suffering. He practiced many religions very hard, almost killed himself with ridiculous yoga/starvation and finally, endeavored to Just Sit under a Bodhi tree some 3000 years ago. What he saw was the causes and conditions which give rise to suffering. And he saw the way out, which is self realization. The self-realization that he saw was we are awakened beings, we are all enlightened, but we don't see it because of amassed karma, which is basically what we have done, what we will do again because of strong habit energies.
I don't know what's going on for you right now, but that's what's great about Zen; no matter what, we Just Sit, and we observe the nature of our mind, first the surface, and then as deep as it gets over time. You actually don't have to do anything except show up for your sitting, show up for your life. Pay attention. Be honest about what we see. Be open to what it might mean. Show up, pay attention, be truthful, and stay open.
Zen practice can start right where you are; you don't have to go anywhere. Find somewhere quiet and dimly lit. Wear loose clothing. In a chair, bring your butt to the edge, so your back is not resting, but is up right instead. Plant your feet, comfortably, but firmly- feel the earth beneath. Now, head presses the sky, as if there was a string pulling the back of the skull toward the clouds. Tuck the chin, as if to make a double chin; this helps keep the base of the skull in line with the spine. Let your eyes rest open, softly like a baby's. Let the breath flow in and out though the nose, like a baby sleeping. Let the long breaths be long and the short breaths short. Set a timer for 10 min. Just sit. Watch thoughts, feelings, images arise and cease, arise and cease- try not to touch nor turn away.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, count your breath 1 on the inhale, 1 on the exhale, 2 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale. Count only to ten, start over. If you feel lost, come back to the body, below the nose, to the lower belly, to your feet grounded, to your head pressing the sky.
You asked about my religion in the message; this is the heart of it. It looks more complicated, but this is the fundamental point. If the first ten minutes feels like something you'd like to develop further, you can seek out a group to practice with, maybe talk with a teacher. I went 4 years with loose affiliation to a teacher and group, and I have to say my life changed for the better when I committed to practice with others, practice for others. But right now, just take care of yourself. Here are two centers nearby:
I have talked to Zen Center of Wayne County people several times- they are really great and in the lineage I practice in, or related.
This is a Rinzai temple and I don't know anything about them but a friend's dad practices there and I've always been inspired to visit.
Finally, here are two books I would recommend:
Every Day Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck
Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Deep bow to your way seeking mind! Oh, and go for walk. Walks are nice.