Posted in Tibetan Buddhism

My Current Daily Practice

My spiritual practice has taken many forms over the years.  One thing I’ve learned is that the line between “spiritual” practice and other practices is purely imaginary.  Here are the things I’m doing now which I consider parts of my spiritual journey:

  • Sitting and enjoying a cup of green tea while reading inspiring works.  My tea is part of my new cancer-prevention regimen, so is also part of my physical practice or self-care.
  • Reading inspirational literature (while enjoying my green tea.)  I spend about 20-30 minutes reading from a variety of daily readers in several different traditions.  Five of them are Buddhist.  Seven of them are not.  This practice also helps to keep me mentally sharp.
  • Giving myself an all-over Reiki treatment.  Reiki is a Japanese energy technique used for relaxation and healing.  I spend about 15 minutes on this.  Reiki, like my tea, also falls under the category of physical health.
  • Meditating.  Yes, I do a traditional sit-and-still-the-mind practice.  I’m currently doing 40-45 minutes per day.  I’m participating in the Winter Feast for the Soul, which I highly recommend, even starting “late.”  Of all the meditations offered, I’m doing the Tibetan one, which includes some chanting.

It all adds up to 90 minutes per day.  I could never do it if I saw these things as tasks or chores.  Luckily, I enjoy each part of my routine, even mindfully brewing my tea.  And it sure beats watching television.  At the end of my life, I may wish that I had meditated more, but I doubt I’ll wish that I had watched more television.

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism

“Going” on Retreat

I completed my at-home retreat.  This was my first “solo” retreat – though with all the animals at home, I never felt alone.  I didn’t end up seeing my friend on Saturday, but I did have to dog sit for a different friend who is recovering from major surgery.  Her dog doesn’t like one of my dogs, and major drama ensued.  While my retreat experience wasn’t fully restful, I got to be of service to both dog and owner, and that was good practice, too.

Because numbers are how Americans are taught to keep score:

  • Zazen periods: 14
  • Demons fed: 4
  • Prajna Paramita practice periods: 4
  • Chanting periods not part of other practices: 3
  • Metta meditation periods: 4
  • Neighbors I had polite conversation with while walking the dogs: 4
  • Wandering dogs I returned to their owners: 1
  • Number of 200mg ibuprofen gelcaps consumed: 9

I learned a lot about how my mind works and about the nature of mind.  I managed to avoid the major temptations of sleeping too much and turning on the computer.  I will do this sort of “householder retreat” again when the opportunity presents itself.

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism

Roll-Your-Own Retreat Schedule

My beloved husband is going out of town next weekend.  So, I’ve decided to take Sylvia Boorstein’s advice and “don’t just do something, sit there!”  Below is my tentative schedule, based on Hubby leaving around 7 Friday and returning sometime after 2 on Sunday.

Of course, all schedules are subject to change!  I will probably be seeing a friend on Saturday afternoon; I’ll just chop out the activities I had scheduled for that window of time.

My plan is a mix of Zen and Tibetan practices.  They actually blend together better than one might think.  Tributaries of the same stream.

I’ll try to report back after I see how it actually works!

FRIDAY

7:00 PM           Open Formal Retreat.  Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunset is at 7:40)

8:00 PM           Demon Feeding Practice

8:30 PM           Walk Dogs, Feed Dogs, Cat, Bun

9:00 PM           Evening Bell Chant

9:30 PM           Lights Out

SATURDAY

5:30 AM          Wake Up, Walk Dogs

6:00 AM          Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunrise is at 6:15)

7:00 AM          Demon Feeding Practice

7:30 AM          Breakfast, Walk Dogs

8:30 AM          Zazen – Bowing, Chanting, 3-4 Periods with 10 minutes of walking in between

11:30 AM        Relax (Yoga, Shower, Read, Etc.)

12:30 PM         Lunch, Walk Dogs

1:30 PM           Relax (Read, Etc.)

2:00 PM           Zazen – 5 Periods with 10 minutes of walking in between

5:10 PM           Relax (Yoga, Read, Etc.), Walk Dogs

6:00 PM           Dinner

7:00 PM           Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunset is at 7:39)

8:00 PM           Demon Feeding Practice

8:30 PM           Walk Dogs, Feed Dogs, Cat, Bun

9:00 PM           Evening Bell Chant

9:30 PM           Lights Out

SUNDAY

5:30 AM          Wake Up, Walk Dogs

6:00 AM          Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunrise is at 6:15)

7:00 AM          Demon Feeding Practice

7:30 AM          Breakfast, Walk Dogs

8:30 AM          Zazen – Bowing, Chanting, 3-4 Periods with 10 minutes of walking in between

11:30 AM        Relax (Yoga, Shower, Read, Etc.)

12:30 PM         Lunch, Walk Dogs

1:30 PM           Zazen

2:00 PM           Close Formal Retreat

2:01 PM           Nap.  🙂  KATZ!

Posted in Week in Review

The Week in Review through 10/19/08

Meditation:

Demon Feeding:  7
Prajna Paramita Practice:  2
Vipassana (periods):  0
Zazen (periods):  0

Chanting: 1

Teachings:

Talks attended:  0
Talks given:  0
Interviews received:  0

Retreats (days): 0

Books Finished: 1

“Feeding Your Demons” by Tsultrim Allione

Notes:

My practice this week involved rescuing my husband, who was broken down by the side of the freeway, rather than going to the Zen Center.  Hard training.  🙂

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism

Spirit Rock Retreat 2008, Day 8

9-28-08
9:30 AM

Notes from Lama Tsultrim’s closing talk

How to set up a Prajna Paramita shrine. “If one worships Prajna Paramita, one has honored all Buddhas, past, present & future.” – “Buddhist Goddesses of India.” Copy of the 8,000 line sutra, wrapped in yellow cloth, placed on the shrine. In Prajna Paramita temples, that is the object that is revered. An image of her on the shrine or hanging behind [is fine, too]. “Of course, you have to actually read the sutra.” Edward Conze has a good translation.

I asked if all Tibetan chants were this soft. No. 🙂 Tsultrim learned this “melody” for the Prajna Paramita mantra from Alan Ginsberg, who learned it from Gary Snyder. “It’s a lineage!”

“The past has been erased from your heart. But let me tell you who you are.” Tara to Machig.

Then we did another dyad. I had my same lovely partner. The first question was how the sacred feminine manifests in me. Then we did “let me tell you who you are.” My partner saw me as a wise goddess, with wings, who can float. She saw me as manifesting balance in my relationship with my husband, in my work, & in my own feminine & masculine attributes. I saw her as Green Tara, ready to take on the issues of her time, while learning to love & care for herself.

Notes from Anna’s closing talk

We can’t jump over the difficult parts of our lives. No “spiritual bypass.” Employ various methods, because no one practice does everything. “If it did, we would teach it to you.” We need to integrate & stabilize the deep retreat experience into our lives. That is a way of practicing the dharma.

One of the most liberating practices is investigation. Inquiry. What is this demon? How do I feed it? Deep questioning. What is this? Who am I?

Balance between movement & stillness, study & practice, relationships & aloneness.

We finished the retreat as we began, with Tsultrim leading us in the Prajna Paramita manta.

A lady named Teresa is giving me a ride to the airport. I have some powerful karma with a different Teresa – so much so that I have a negative association with the name. I am taking this gift from the universe as an opportunity to get over it.

11:54 AM
I spoke briefly with Tsultrim & told her I’d like to study with her, while continuing my Zen practice. She advised me to start with Kapala Training I – which happens to be offered during the time Michael will be in Laguna Seca. And so my karma unfolds…

I made friends with the woman I had had trouble liking. I spoke to her just now and she’s quite nice! Isn’t that interesting…?

Posted in Week in Review

The Week in Review through 10/12/08

Meditation:

Demon Feeding: 9
Prajna Paramita Practice: 4
Vipassana (periods): 0
Zazen (periods): 3

Chanting: 1

Teachings:

Talks attended: 0
Talks given: 0
Interviews received: 1

Retreats (days): 0

Books Finished:
0

Notes:

I had a consulting interview with Tim.  I told him about my experiences on retreat, and he was very supportive of my having learned some Tibetan practices.

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism

Spirit Rock Retreat 2008, Day 1

9-21-08 Spirit Rock
4:15 PM

Christine picked me up. We stopped & had hot tea on the way to the airport. I look forward to seeing her next week when she picks me up.

The flight was fine. Had an entire HS [high school] football team aboard. As a fellow passenger said, “Way too much testosterone on this flight.”

Met Babs & caught the shuttle. She’s a “back to the land” rancher who raises Percherons. I enjoyed her company. We got to SR early so we went hiking. Beautiful vistas in the rolling hills! Saw a fawn & several hawks.

My roommate, Kate, seems nice. Very mindful.

My work meditation is to wash vegetables. How appropriate! I did this at Deer Park [Monastery] & hated it. I volunteered for it here from the available jobs so I can practice detachment – or non-attachment. Now, I’m off to get trained. I wonder how much training I’ll need in washing vegetables…

7:30 PM
Dinner was good, though light. Lunch is the big meal here.

I managed to avoid washing any of the 40 lbs. of bok choy! I did help wash 13 lbs. of roma tomatoes, 8 lbs. of bell peppers, & 1/2 flat of cherry tomatoes. The other members of my veggie washing team are Regina, Barbara, & Micha (who just got married to her girlfriend of 21 years!)

Kate & I have set up our home & basic ground rules. We have established that she is the window expert & I do the blinds. We managed to “fix” both.

I hope Michael did well in his [motorcycle] race. I think of him often. The only reason I regret not brining a camera is that I would have liked to share images of this place with him.

9:30 PM
The opening session was great. Chanting the prajna paramita [mantra] – 80 to 90 women – chanting at a pitch I can reach rather than too low. Lots (too much?) estrogen in the room. 🙂

It’s so quiet here, I can hear my tinnitus constantly. I could even hear my heart beat during meditation, though, curiously, only on the inhalations.

The talk opened with a quote from Ammachi about how feminine energy is needed to save the world. Something certainly is needed. I hope I can help.

Now it’s off to sleep. I look at my wedding ring tattoo, remembering the night Michael & I got them – & then went dancing at Miss Kitty’s! I think I just found the one sacred thing that only I share with him…

1st interview
Anna 4:00 Rm 1 9/22/08

Schedule

6:00 Wake Up

6:30 Morning Sitting Meditation/Sky gazing

7:15 Breakfast Meditation

8:00 Walking Meditation

9:00 Sitting Meditation

9:30 Teachings

10:30 Walking Meditation

11:00 Sitting Meditation

11:30 Teachings

12:30 Lunch Meditation

2:30 Sitting Meditation

3:00 Movement or Walking Meditation

4:00 Sitting Meditation or Small Group Interviews

4:45 Walking Meditation

5:15 Dinner Meditation

6:45 Sitting Meditation/Sky gazing

7:20 Stretch Break

7:30 Teachings

8:30 Working Meditation (Washing Vegetables)

9:00 Sitting Meditation

9:30 Sleep

Posted in Zen Buddhism

Perceiving Sound

I had an opportunity recently to participate in a “sound healing.” It was a deeply moving experience. The lady who gave it, Kabalah of Gaia Mama, uses Tibetan singing bowls, Tingshas, gongs, chimes, and her voice. The sound pressure made the cells of my body vibrate. I forgot to breathe. There was nothing else, only the sound. The sound was everything. The sound was me, and I was the sound. The sound was the world, and the world was the sound, and I was the world.

“Perceive World Sound” is the translation of the “Kwan Um” School of Zen, founded by my grand-teacher, Seung Sahn. He was an advocate of chanting the Great Dharani which, according to him, has no translation. At my Zen Center (which has since split off from Kwan Um in the time-honored tradition of Zen Masters striking out on their own), we chant the Great Dharani as well as several chants in Korean. No one at our center understands Korean. It’s about the sound.

The story of the Great Dharani’s origin is that the Buddha gave it to a monk (or a monkey, depending on the version of the story) who had done something that he was feeling remorse over. He kept worrying about it, focusing on his past and thereby missing out on the present. The Buddha said he was creating karma for himself by dwelling in the past. The mantra was designed to help him concentrate on something other than his own misdeeds, thereby purifying his karma.

Some people don’t care for chanting. Personally, I enjoy it. It deepens my breathing and calms my mind. And it immerses me in sound until there is no me, and only the sound remains.