Keeping with the July theme at Wind-in-Grass, tonight's game involved taking a vacation.
After we had sat for 25 minutes, we rose, moved one cushion to the right, and went on vacation- sitting for another 5 minutes. I informed the sangha "You are on vacation. Notice what you left behind. Notice what you kept. Notice how your sitting differs, how it is the same. Ask...what did I vacate?"
A noticed that he went to Hawaii in his mind, his one no fail place of refuge.
B noticed that fresh back from sesshin, she felt like her practice didn't shift much. She said she felt permeable, with thoughts coming and going without hindrance and her mein above it just noticing without attachment. She did recollect though that after long work days, that sitting was harder, more tense, and that it required some letting go. And she did note that it was refreshing changing seats and moving cushions.
C noticed how his practice was still, but that he felt an less urging and let it come to him.
D noticed that her practice opened up completely. She thought of how she vacationed, what made her happy, and then her practice opened into a smile.
E noticed that his practice was not entirely different, but that his practice is often a vacation, a time to let go of the noise and energy of the day and to sit and let things drift in and out and quiet down.
F noticed that he felt entitled to let the urging of thoughts and to-do lists ring on unanswered. He noticed that he felt a slight pressure to take advantage of the time. He also noticed a body hesitation to let go of the buzz of distraction.
Then we opened up the discussion. How did we know when to vacation? Proscriptively, when things mounted up. After everything was done...which was never, or just in between jobs. Constantly, climbing, sunning, reading. When vacation days mounted up. Interesting that few of us went to vacation, that it needed, often, to be imposed upon us. Was practice vacation or work? Vacation- it allowed us to suspend judgements, to watch and laugh as we saw our mind judging our actions, even our thoughts. It was freedom to trust that we are in the right place doing the right thing. Work- it was an activity to which we applied effort. It was sometimes striving, seldom restful. It was revealing, challenging, questioning.
If it was work, how much was important? Would there be confirmation that we are headed in the right direction? I view from a hill that revealed the golden temple in the distance? Or would we strive in sit without encouragement? When enlightenment came, would it last? Would there be a flash and a bang, or would it be gradual?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Thank you all. A, B, C, D, E and all your other letters. What a great vacation.
[*** Shameless plug. The SF Zendo hosts its first Koan Seminar, 10-3:30pm July 31st at 842b Carolina St, SF CA 94017. Details on the calendar page. Bring friends, bring family, bring yourself, bring your practice, bring your frustration, bring your hopes, and dreams and backaches***]
Finally, I read these this week. They seemed right on with the vacation theme:
Borrowed time: The sad reality that, more often than not, it is the people around you who are really in charge of your schedule. Therefore, if you want any time for yourself—to go to the gym, say, or spend your lunch hour at your desk shopping online—you need to “borrow” the time from someone who thinks they have a more important claim to it. This sad reality has led to countless magazine articles in which experts advise you to “schedule me-time” or “put fun on your calendar,” which, if nothing else, at least give you a chuckle.
—Kristin van Ogtrop, from Just Let me Lie Down
I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask [my students] whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement…will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?
If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living this manic way? …
Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? … No? I understand. But at 80, will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else…? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren? …
I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.
—Anne Lamott, from the April 2010 issue of Sunset magazine
Your comments, as always, sustain us.
“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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