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Showing posts from June, 2013

How To Become A Zen Monk (or die trying)

"Now, if you have decided to become a monk because you think that life in this world is too hard and bitter for you and you would prefer to rather live off other people's donations while drinking your tea - if you want to become a monk just to make a living, then the following is not for you." -Kosho Uchiyama
So you want to be a Zen monk or priest? Unsui, which means clouds and water? Good on ya. Me too. 
Having googled that very aspiration for the first time in 2003, I was convinced it was impossible. I'll admit I am as thick headed as they come. I was also resistant to meet some figure in a robe. I heard my father's voice when I begged him to get my fortune read in Jackson Square, New Orleans, "I'm not paying some fat asshole in a bathrobe to tell you lies." Instead, for the first four years of my Zen practice, I committed as little as possible to my local sangha, left when they started chanting, and never talked to the teacher. I was so unapproacha…

Cup Stealers and the IRS

Having run up the hill 1000 feet and down the hill to the ocean and up the hill to reservoir, I jumped in and swam. I left when all the naked women showed up. I wasn't naked and I wasn't even swimming- just kicking around and looking at newts suspended in our farm's life blood.  I said hello and goodbye and honored the woman's hour. Boundaries. If it were Mom's ball in New Orleans, I never would have thought twice about getting naked- but half of the women had only seen me in my black robes or my farm gear.

Sitting on the table was a note from my wife. I could still taste the salt from my run. It was on an envelope from the IRS- it read, "Baby duck, I think this is for real."

They want 3,400 dollars for a retirement fund I cashed out when Lauren and I left New Orleans in 2011. I laughed and looked for our tax return. Turns out we didn't report it. I guess we thought since we lost 20% right off the bat, maybe that included tax? Turns out, no.

All this …

Yaza ( or 34 hours in pursuit of zazen)

I was scrolling through the comments section of a popular blog and someone mentioned Antaiji's gnarly schedule of 14 periods of 50 minute zazen sessions. They said they didn't think they could do it.

For the first time during the last sesshin I sat through from 4:45am to the next day around 12:30pm. It was about 34 hours of pursuing zazen. I took two naps during that 34 hours, both within the first 12 hours- one after breakfast and one after lunch. The last scheduled period of zazen ended at 9pm. After chanting our refuges, I took a shower, drank a bowl of tea, and returned to our dimily lit Zendo- some others were already sitting.

I think there are sudden or gradual successes to sitting all night. I'm calling success the ability to walk the next day without pain and a mind clear of trauma so that you might want to sit again. I'd heard of our ancestors doing this Yaza, late night sitting practice, but it took me 10 years to approach it; others took it on in the first 3…

We are One Buddha and one Ancestor

Hello dust!  So many paths go up from the foothills but one moon grazes  the peak. It's logical; if you're not going anywhere any road is the right one.
-Ikkyu
Students, one Mexican, one Israeli, discuss Kant and whether there is an observer observing the observed, buttermilk pancakes between them. The farm rolls in with wet dirty knees. They smell like morning dew, dirt, and spinach. The guesthouse crew pulls their monthly dish duty, bow out and take a break. The baker recites a poem that ends like, "and from a mouse in the talons of a hawk, we transform with wings flapping into the great sky." 
I sit there thinking about all of the things I should do on my day off and then decide that I won't "should" today. Here I am, sitting under our skylight, legs outstretched on our tatami, drinking green tea with rice milk. 
Life on the farm is non-stop. This week, we planted about 12,000 little plants on about 2 acres. It's our sixth planting. Planting one…