Posted in Week in Review

The Week in Review through 12/28/08


Prajna Paramita Practice: 1
Zazen (periods): 2
Metta: 4
Chanting: 2


The Abbot, Tim, was kind enough to lead practice Christmas morning. Sitting Zen seemed as good a way as any to celebrate peace on earth, so I attended. It was a wonderful way to mark the holiday for me.

Meditating every day has been a challenge. I missed a day this week for no legitimate reason. My illegitimate reason was that I was angry with someone close to me and didn’t feel like meditating. Yikes! I would have hoped by now that I’d have seen through that excuse, but I was tripped up by the “demon Mara” yet again. Luckily, as 13th Century Zen Master Eihei Dogen said, I can start over 84,000 times per second.

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism

Resting in Ease

I’ve had a sore throat and sinus infection since Sunday.  Monday and Tuesday of this week, I had my current 15-hour days.  By the time I got home both nights, I was so exhausted that I  took some medication and went to bed.

Today being Christmas Eve, I had the day off.  I got up this morning but quickly realized I was ready for a nap.  I told my husband I was going to expend all my energies toward getting well.  I went back to bed around noon.

I fell asleep almost immediately.  It was the fitful sleep of illness, unfortunately, and I kept waking up either too hot or too cold.  Each time I awoke, I adjusted my covers and settled on my back to meditate.

I practiced metta, silently repeating the phrases in my mind, directing lovingkindness toward myself.

May I be safe.

May I be healthy.

May I be peaceful.

May I be happy.

I dropped back to sleep each time, still turning over the mantras in my mind.  Eventually, I woke to the sound of my husband’s voice.  It was 5:30.  I got up to spend some time with him, and it was amazing how much better I felt.  I’m still not completely healed, but I’m well on the way.

I had never tried meditating during an illness before.  Though my desire was to sleep as much as possible, I found that meditating – rather than thinking about how miserable I was or worrying how I’d feel tomorrow – brought me additional rest.

Isn’t that interesting…?

Posted in Week in Review

The Week in Review through 12/21/08


Metta: 5


This week, I missed two days of meditation in a row.  Not a good sign.  Luckily, I only teach two days next week.  I hope I can spend some time meditating to recharge, but the social obligations of the holidays present their own challenges.

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism, Week in Review, Zen Buddhism

The Week in Review through 11/30/08


Prajna Paramita Practice:  1
Zazen (periods):  3
Metta:  7

Chanting: 1


I’m currently working a split shift, 10 hours total time teaching in the classroom with 5 hours in between.  in Southern California, that’s not enough time to commute home and back.  So my time for meditation is scarce.  Still, I’m managing to do metta the first thing every morning and the last thing every night.  So far, so good.  🙂

Posted in Zen Buddhism

Deer Park Retreat 2004, Day 2

7:22 AM

Carolyn moved to another room what had a lower bunch free. I helped her move her things, then we went to the bookstore together. I got a mug for tea, & my ticket for Sunday. We didn’t have to pay, which made me okay with paying.

Dinner in silence was interesting. So may people, so little noise.

Orientation was nice. Led by a charming monk who told us his mother was visiting. He had a French accent.

This morning I got up at 5:20, despite having been awake until something after 1 from [someone’s] snoring. 🙂

I met my totem animal on the way, right outside the meditation hall: a cute bun [Rabbit] hopped across my path.

During the guided mediation, it felt strange to wait for the translation, since Vietnamese always came before English. I am spoiled, as an American.

Off to breakfast now. I wonder if it will be as strange & exotic as last night’s Vietnamese dinner.

9:15 AM
Breakfast was good. I watched the Vietnamese & so put rice milk in my thick oatmeal, & just the right amount of honey. Yum. There was some thing I’d never tried; I think it was a variety of sweet potato. Breads, apples, oranges, bananas, peanut butter, jam, cheeses.

After breakfast, our room got breakfast clean up. I worked with an Australian lady drying dishes. She & others came & went; I kept working. The monk who gave me directions yesterday said I could go, but I stayed until everything was dry & put away. I feel deeply content.

There are 2+ hours before walking meditation. Time for some reading.

1:25 PM
Kensho experiences
First, during seated meditation, while the monastics were chanting in Vietnamese. I felt the separateness between us starting to dissolve.

Then on walking meditation. I was at the top, overlooking the small town below, listening to the bird calls, & everything started to merge. First my senses expanded to include an awareness of everything, & then I expanded to include everything. For some unknown reason (perhaps because I was tearing up), I resisted it. I almost made the sensation go away, when we started singing one of those cutesy songs I find so corny. And then my sangha got absorbed, too. We were all one: us, the hill, the rocks, the town blow, the wind, the birds, the trees…

It didn’t last. It never does. Someday, it will. Maybe even in this life. 🙂

The walk itself was great. Over 100 people out in the rain. I started to slip once, going uphill, and a monk took my hand to help me. We smiled at each other, though not a word was spoken. I wonder if the monks here are forbidden from touching women? If so, this was a good example of a man knowing when to keep the precepts & when to break them.

It was cold & miserable when we started out in a light rain. There were some birds singing, & I know they were heralding the sun just as surely as if I spoke language. Sure enough, the rain stopped, the sun came out, & I took off both my jacket & sweater for the return trip.

I’ve been thinking about the monastics. Until yesterday, I had seen perhaps a score throughout my entire life, of all faiths. There are several hundred here. The spiritual energy here is tremendous. Are they more spiritual than I am? I’m sure some of them are. I’m sure some of them are not.

Why would someone enter a monastery? To be a spiritual seeker, or family expectations (in the case of Asian Buddhists), to run away from something or simply because they didn’t fit in anywhere else. I hope most of these are spiritual seekers, & I choose to treat them as if they are.

I haven’t seen much of Thay. He was sitting with us this morning, but not on the walk. I’m here more to sit than to see him, though. He created this place, & his teachings permeate it. So I am getting to experience being with him.

I’ve noticed a certain cult of personality surrounding him, though. At least [name omitted] thinks he’s the second coming of Siddhartha. Kinda scary. I think he’s just a man. A good person, a good teacher. But “just this guy, you know?”

Random thought: I miss my computer. This journal would make a lot more sense if I could move things around & edit!

The temperature has dropped again & the rain is back. But the weather is no problem. It is only a problem if I make it a problem. So I won’t make anything.

7:00 PM
I finally found a food I didn’t like: one of the soups. Damn. Should have taken more of the pasta with olives. *grin*

I’m looking forward to the “road trip” tomorrow. There are many things I would prefer to be different: drier, warmer weather; a roommate who doesn’t snore; etc. But all in all, I’m having a great time. If I accomplish nothing else but to escape the cares of my present life for a week, I can’t help but end up more centered.

During the chanting this morning, there was an older Vietnamese woman chanting to a different tune. I was reminded of the abbot’s story of the Korean monk who refused to chant according to the local sangha’s practice. He insisted on doing it the way his Korean sangha did it. And then there’s Mike Warnke, who said, “For those of you thinking, ‘This isn’t how we do things in our church,’ I’d like to say, ‘This is not your church.'”

But “brother Mike” missed the point. It was her church. Ocean Eyes Zen Center was the Korean monk’s sangha. And this week, this is my sangha. Including the annoying chantess.

I saw her later coming up the stairs & waited for her. She smiled at me and bowed deeply.

So I got stuck in another dharma discussion. But since it was guided, it was okay. The subject was sangha building. Hearing all the things “wrong” with other sanghas made me appreciate the health of mine.

Before dinner, there were 20 to 25 of us sitting quietly in the tea room. A woman came in & softly announced, “Dear Sangha, I’m sorry to break this noble silence, so I’ll do so with only one word: cookies.” We grinner as she set the tin on the table. An older man carried it around at one point to make sure those of us not seated close by could get some. I just had one, since dinner was half an hour away at that point.

Now I’m back in the tearoom, though it’s noisier now. Seated meditation is coming up, and then bed.

Posted in Week in Review, Zen Buddhism

The Week in Review through 11/16/08


Demon Feeding: 2
Prajna Paramita Practice: 6
Zazen (periods): 4
Metta: 1

Chanting: 2


Talks attended: 1


Zen Master Jibong gave a short talk on awareness. As always, powerful teaching.

I did a “roll your own retreat” yesterday. There was a day-long scheduled at the Zen Center, but I was still too congested from the flu. Even my rabbit was giving me funny looks and twitching his ears at all the unpleasant sounds I’ve been making. I decided I’d be more comfortable at home, and this way I wouldn’t disturb others’ meditation. So in between blowing my nose, walking the dogs, fixing meals, taking a nap, and generally feeling miserable, I did a few hours hard training. It was wonderful. 🙂

I’m doing less Demon Feeding practice these days and more Prajna Paramita practice instead. I’ve become fairly familiar with my demons, and while I’ll continue to have a relationship with them, they are quiet enough for now to allow me to focus on other practices.

Posted in Week in Review, Zen Buddhism

The Week in Review through 11/2/08


Demon Feeding: 7
Prajna Paramita Practice: 2
Zazen (periods): 1

Chanting: 1


Talks attended: 1


Zen Master Jibong gave a talk on growing up and taking responsibility without losing our childlike enjoyment of life. On the absolute level, form is emptiness. In 300 years, where will you be? Nothing we do matters. On the relative level, emptiness is form. One person can make a difference. Everything we do matters.

It was a profound teaching. I was ready for it, since my recent retreat. Prior to that, I don’t think I would have understood a word the man was saying. I’m sure he’s talked about absolute and relative truth before, but I swear I have no memory of those terms until Lama Tsultrim taught them at Spirit Rock. In the month since then, I’ve heard Jibong and Tim both speak of them many times.

Isn’t that interesting…?

Posted in Week in Review

The Week in Review through 10/26/08


Demon Feeding: 7
Prajna Paramita Practice: 3
Zazen (periods): 5

Chanting: 2


Talks attended: 2

Books Finished: 1

“Dharma Punx” by Noah Levine


I went to hear Tim, a Senior Dharma Teacher and abbot of the Golden Wind Zen Center, give a talk at Aikido-Ai on Tuesday. He spoke on “Polarity, Paradox and Poetry.” It’s hard to encapsulate a brilliant, 3-minute dharma talk, but here’s how I put it to my husband: the polarity is that, according to the Heart Sutra, form is emptiness and emptiness is form. The paradox is that both are true. The poetry is how you learn to accept that truth. After Tim’s talk, Zen Master Jibong answered questions from the audience. Then we had refreshments on the patio. A very pleasant evening.

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism

Non-Duality (Or, A Cool Thing I Learned on Retreat)

I’ve been doing Prajna Paramita practice and Feeding Your Demons practice since my return from a retreat at Spirit Rock. Maybe I’m a little slow, but it’s taken me until recently to figure out how they work together.

Both are Tibetan meditation practices that I learned from Lama Tsultrim Allione. Both involve visualization. I think of Prajna Paramita practice as “tantric” because the body position is very precise. Demon Feeding involves moving around. None of this was familiar to me as a Zen practitioner.

Prajna Paramita means “perfection of wisdom.” It is a mantra, an ideal, and, it turns out, an Indian goddess. The practice involves absorbing and becoming the goddess, or in more practical terms, getting in touch with your own inner knowing. Or your Buddha nature. Or your Christ consciousness. Or your subconscious mind. In my personal experience, the practice is teaching me to listen to the still, small voice within and trust it. It’s much easier to follow your intuition when you’ve been channeling a wisdom goddess.

Demon Feeding is a more “feminine” approach to dealing with what ails you. “Demons” are our inner forces that try to undermine us. Examples include depression, addiction, and disease, or global demons like war. They can be anything that stands between us and liberation. The practice of feeding our demons rather than fighting them accomplishes two main goals. It saves the energy we would have spent in the fight. It also turns the demon into an ally.

Lama Tsultrim taught both practices on the retreat, but I really didn’t get how they fit together until I’d been doing them at home for about two and a half weeks. Then it hit me how much I’m willing to trust the process of Demon Feeding because I trust myself more in general as a result of the Prajna Paramita practice.

Resting in my own innate, inner gnosis at the end of Prajna Paramita practice, I’m open to listening to the “large I” (as we say in Zen), and let go of the “small i.” Jung might call it the collective unconscious. For myself, I’m learning to make better decisions. And part of that better decision making has been to listen, really listen, to the voices of my demons and allies during Demon Feeding. I see patterns emerging that I had never noticed before, and I’m a fairly introspective person.

At last, I see the wisdom of learning – and practicing – these two meditation traditions together. When I viewed them as two separate practices, I was grateful to have learned each of them. Now, though, I’m finally getting to the heart of the lesson:

Nothing is separate.

Posted in Zen Buddhism

The Importance of Good Equipment

About 8 years ago, I finally invested in a zafu (the round meditation cushion your butt goes on) that I found on sale in a local yoga studio.  I was a starving student, and it was a large financial commitment at that point in my life.  I did without the zabuton (the big, square mat that goes under the zafu, where you rest your knees).  For all these years, I’ve put my zafu on the bed and convinced myself that I had an adequate substitute.

I learned better, of course, from going to my Zen Center and other meditation halls, places that had the “right” cushions.  The bed tends to lead in toward the center as the mattress wears over the years.  Zabutons, being thinner, don’t have that problem.

Finally, last week, I ordered myself a zabuton.  I found the company that had made my 8-year-old zafu and ordered from them.  (Hey, the zafu has proven to be good quality, so why not.)  I’d been meditating daily since my return from the retreat at Spirit Rock, and my back was no longer up to the angle produced by the mattress.

Immediately, there was an improvement in my meditation posture.  Now I’m usually meditating twice a day, with no more discomfort.  If I’d known what a difference this would make in my practice, I’d have purchased a zabuton years ago.  Then again, I wasn’t this dedicated to my practice years ago.  So it all works out as my karma ripens.