Wednesday night was community night, and we had a good deal of community there to practice.
To preface the game for the evening, the koan Layman Pang's Daughter, was spoken into the room:
Layman Pang was a basket maker. One day, after work, as he was gathering his baskets from the bridge where he sold them, he slipped and rolled down into a ditch, where he lay.
His daughter, seeing this, immediately leap into the ditch and lay beside him
"what are you doing?" inquired Pang
"I am helping Daddy", she replied
"Well then" he finished "Its a good thing no one saw you".
I have always found that koan wonderfully kind and compassionate.
We walked, then had tea. After tea, I asked each person to, one at a time, turn to their left and tell that person a flaw they perceived in their meditation. Busy head, tight muscles, no focus, sleeping feet, whatever. The receiver was asked to give them some heartfelt advice. Find time to do a relaxing mediation, don't worry about it, focus on a ball of light, let things go in the river, use a bench.
Once we had gone around the room, the bell was rung and we sat for 5 minutes. This time, people were asked to sit with the other person's perceived shortcoming.
Once we had done that, we shared how it was to have someone hold your flaw, to hold someone's flaw, did we feel closer to the person after giving advice, or lying in the ditch with them.
You know, experiments and games and all are great, but sometimes the best thing to do is just let the meditation be itself. Tonight was one such night.
PZI is in sesshin, retreat, up in Santa Rosa. Some of the members of Wind in Grass joined them. But many of us were in the Bay area too, and we had a rather nicely full house Wednesday night.
Teacher David Weinstein, who usually would have offered interviews tonight, was leading the sesshin with John Tarrant, and it just wasn't the right energy to try to replace that. Instead, we sat...inviting the group to sit shikentaza, or hell, just any type of meditation that appealed for the first period. Then we walked, then we had tea. Licorice. Again. Its a favorite. But I digress.
We talked, and the conversation unexpectedly blossomed into a discussion of how we each work with koans, and whether that is ok, and whether one can really not work on a koan, and what other things and toys we like to play with when we sit. We discussed how some of us, most of us, use some crutch to still the mind before turning to a koan. A breathing meditation, concentration on a warm ball, a river, a conveyor belt carrying away thoughts. Etc. We talked about what came next. For some of us, deeper emotion and attention to thoughts. For others, a long stillness. For others, not much change. We noticed that sometimes working with a koan made use feel like we had to do something. That just doing what we did was not enough. And we noticed how some koans call for different responses- hearing it like a mantra, noticing emotions, seeing it visually, etc.
Then we sat with the koan "Stop the War". For many, most, it was the first time they had heard the koan. For many it seemed to call to them, to invite tolerance. To spurn action. For some it was a word, written inside their minds. For others, it was song lyrics.
It was a great night, with a lot of commraderie. Next week, community night. We will sit then go to the bottom of the hill. Its a club. Loud music for the still soul.
Inspired by the exploratory group in Santa Rosa last week, investigating movement and its place in Zen, Wind-in-Grass got right into the lab. I mean, what good is thinking about thinking about how one could work with a koan with movement when one can just move with a koan and see what happens.
So we did.
We sat, the group blissfully ignorant of the stupidity to which I was about to subject them. The koan was spoken into the room:
"Are dolphins really as smart as people say they are?"
We sat, we walked, we took our tea, then everyone was invited to stand. Going around the room, everyone was invited to demonstrate one movement that gave them joy. The movement inextricable with who they are. And they did. And it did.
We had soccer kicks, and child's pose, and stretching in the morning, and bottom turns, and long walks, and clog dancing, and nursery rhyme wiggles, and pop ups, and lie downs and twists.
Then, with not a breath, we asked "are dolphins really as smart as people say they are?" And it was wonderful. There was squeaking and bobbing and backpeddling, and breaching and swimming.
So...why not: It was asked
Donshang was asked, "what is the Buddha?". Dongshang responded "Three pounds of flax".
There was sack heaving, grinding, pouring, eating, armloads, handloads and fistfuls.
It was effortless. And sincere, and I thank everyone who came and jumped in. Literally in this case.
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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