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Showing posts from May, 2012

The Subtle Agression of Mindfulness

I have a knee jerk reaction to the word mindfulness. It's used quite a bit. Its ubiquitous nature feels snug like spandex.  

There is a story in the book Thank You and Okay about a tall monk from Texas living in a Japanese temple with a short Japanese monk. This texan monk keeps banging his head on this low hanging beam above the bathroom door. After an outburst, the Japanese monk serenely offers, "This is to bring you mindfulness."

The texan offers, "Well, why don't I go get the chain saw and lower it 6 inches so it can bring you mindfulness, too!"

What is mindfulness? I have no idea. In our tradition, we have forms like Oryoki, Zendo ettiquite, and robes. My teacher, Kosho Zenrei, calls that last one "robe torture." Ripping, sticking, catching, hot and cold robes. Oryoki is 45 minutes of fussing with your bowls and chanting, 6 minutes or so of eating. Zendo ettiquite is always evovling; the latest is not to bow from gassho at the end of our ref…

Practice Resurrection

As we start to harvest our first planting of the season, I have less and less to say, sleeping more and more, as we try keep up with what can be a beast of a schedule. Zazen, work, lunch,work,zazen, dinner, class, bed.

Who is this one that is tired and doesn't want to?

A guest was eating breakfast with myself and a long time resident and asked us how we did it, if we got paid, and if we got paid enough to retire. She said we don't really get paid enough to retire. I asked who actually retires around here? She said Daigan, who is about 82. He retired when he turned 70, which is when they ask you what you feel like doing. He's teaching a class next week. And then there is Farm Elder Emila, who is 70, and can cut lettuce faster than you can pack it.

How thankful I am to have a life that I don't want to vacation from. I'm not looking forward to retirement, I'm looking forward to planting, sitting, chanting. "I" don't go to sleep, it just happens, no …

Mother's Day Jizo Ceremony

I made a promise to a friend that I would go to the Ceremony for Lost Children on their behalf. There have also been lost children in my family. But I didn't think I would be making a prayer flag, sewing a red bib, for Marcell, who is still alive, but lost to me, maybe lost to the world, too.

Sewing a bib for Marcell, who is about 17 now, seemed helpful. I remember when he was just 12 years old and insisted on coming to the Zen temple where I lived. He took care of plants, learned how to lay brick, played the piano, and taught me secret routes through the city where we could ride our bikes in peace.

On Mother's day, we all sat in meditation, our stories of loss hidden behind tears, upright posture, and in the emptiness of that huge room, a spacious yurt. To sit in a circle felt right, facing in, supporting each other with nothing more than a willingness to step towards our vulnerability in a ceremony for who already were. I went with the sincere wish to be a good big brother…

(Home) work

We're into our 4th week of the apprenticeship and, like my dad used to say, I'm busier than a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Three classes, tenken, chiden, calligraphy, sewing, dharma talks and the occasional nature walk to hear the birds and eat the wild eatables.

Did you know crows mate for life and can recognize human faces? And Redwood Sorrel tastes like sour candy. Super moon was out this morning.

Class one starts at 8 am this morning. It's an introduction to Buddhism. I can't attend these classes too many times, it always comes up fresh. Homework is: What is the middle way and how do you know you're on it?

Class two is a spontaneous improv zen. We take this class in a big yurt that was gifted to us some years ago- plenty of room to run around and act out our insides. We lay on the floor and make weird noises, followed by partner work where we explore what our body wants to say (this is a silent improv). Very interesting- my body speaks a lot of kung…