Thursday, September 29, 2011

No self

I was able to finish Invoking Reality by Daido Roshi while on the plane and can sum up the entire book with the phrase "No self."

The book went through the precepts and explained them in the wonderful Loori fashion. Deep valleys, steep peaks and light hearted fields. I have been reading also Aitken Roshi's The Mind of Clover which is very similar, however much more academic.

Over and over again the phrase of no self rose to my mind. In applying the precepts and understanding their application to my practice it seemed it fit them well. However, this can be misconstrued and seemingly over simplified. But practicing true no self is not anything of the sort. More so coming back to your true nature when your mind wants to cling tenaciously to your self nature.

I especially liked the discussion on actualizing good for others. This phrase has always challenged me. Never really clear on how to it's application. Seeing the three pure precepts as a the reality of the grave precepts was excellent. Also the usage of the teachings of Bodhidharma in comparison with Dogen also helped to see both the practical and philosophical sides.

Started reading Uchiyama's From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment.  Hoping for some clarity on samu and applying work practice to life.

Unexpected stop in Nashville

There was a flurry of activity with the flight attendants grabbing the medical kits out of the overhead bins. This was followed by an announcement asking if a medical professional was onboard. 
30 minutes later we are on a very quick descent into Nashville.
After the medical personnel came on you could feel a breathe of relief in the cabin.
A few minutes later the wife left the plane followed by her husband in a wheelchair. He was alert and actually even carrying his own IV bag. From the time they announced our landing until he left I silently chanted EJKG for him as well. My row mates probably are regretting their seat choice although I did notice out of the corner of my eye the wife next to me say a prayer with her palms pressed.  Was nice to practice with her.

Metta to that gentleman and his wife. Life always likes to keep things interesting with little regard to our foolish plans.

The Lady in 8D

While getting on the flight, the lady sitting in the seat in front of me was in obvious pain. So much so that the flight attendant asked her husband of there was anything that she could get her. Apparently suffering from a sciatic nerve issue.
Fortunately the seat between her and her husband was open and she was able to lay down in his lap. I was moved to tears watching how he cared for her and her distress. I had been reading at that time from Invoking Reality on acutalizing good for others. As such, and feeling her and his pain I put down the book and alternated between zazen and chanting Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo and metta for her.

May she be free of suffering, may she feel safe and still.
May she be free of enmity, may she be loving grateful and kind.
May she be healthy, and at ease in all her ills.
May she be at peace, embracing all conditions of life.

May we all...

Off to the Monastery

Set out this morning to Zen Mountain Monastery. Pretty excited about going to the home of so much amazing teaching. Also, it feels somehow like a pivotal point in my practice.  Like heading home after a long trip.
I am waiting at the DFW airport and thinking thoughts of metta to my friends and wife. They are facing a direct example of impermanence. They received communication today that their jobs are in danger. Their company, Nokia, has been suffering for some time. As such they are consolidating resources based on location. Dallas, once a major center, is now rebuilding and their jobs, global in function are not essential to that regrowth. The open questions are many, as are the speculations. However one thing is certain ...much can be learned. Good and bad are all perspective and staying with the moment, as it truly is, is of critical importance. 
As I continue on to New York they will be in my thoughts.

Deep bows.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 27

  • Morning Zazen (30 Min @ 1pm)
    • Well I suppose this wasn't "morning zazen" but was the first zazen of the day.
    • Leaving on a trip to Zen Mountain Monastery tomorrow and so lots to do today.
    • Work therefore took precedent this morning and had to wait on zazen.
    • However!  I was able to sit with 5 others on G+!  Two of whom aren't Treeleafers, just random Buddhist guys.  
    • Today I sat with Peter, Don, Bob, Soen & Louis.
    • I also did 30 minutes of suizen afterwards which was wonderful.
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Today's shaku practice was suizen.  
    • Was wonderful because I find that when I play after sitting it's so peaceful, so effortless and so goal-less.
    • Things come much more naturally...and when they don't..they don't. Absolutely love it.
    • Contacted my sensei, Jon Johnston, and asked if he had a copy of the notation for Yoru no Uta...sure enough, about an hour later I was set!
    • Spent a good part of the day practicing the first two 'stanzas' of the tune.  Just love it.
  • Practice Partner Exercise #4
    • The PPE for Treeleaf this week was to do the dishes.
    • Sounds simple, but they have to be done by hand, mindfully.
    • While doing them I had wished I hard read Instructions to the Cook by Dogen first.  Too much to do, too little time.
    • Took me about an hour and a half to do them.  The first half was great.  Just reading each dish and being very careful and mindful of what I was doing.
    • The latter half I picked up the pace.  I had wanted to get it done because I began to think of all the stuff I have to do tonight before my trip tomorrow.  I began to stack dishes to put them away and didn't really look nor think too deeply.
    • Seems I have the attention span of a gnat...or a toddler.  Need more practice here as well apparently.
    • One interesting note.  My wife had received several coffee mugs from her half-brother.  These were hand made ones and on the bottom there was some inscriptions.  We've had the mugs for years and I have never, ever looked at them.  I had assumed that they were just the name of the maker.  And while that was partly true, each one had a little not as well.  The two that I washed had written on them "Love me tender." and "Have a good day. I will too."  Thought that was so neat.  So often we rush through life trying to get somewhere or do something...never realizing what we are missing.
  • Evening Zazen 30 Min at 9:30pm
    • Going right now to sit.  Will not do G+ tonight unless I notice someone sitting when I head over to the altar.  
  • Off to Zen Mountain Monastery tomorrow so will be offline from the blog until Tuesday.  No technology will be a challenge, but very much looking forward to the downtime.

Ango 2011 - Day 26

  • Morning Zazen (45m @ ??am)
    • I can't for the life of me remember who I sat with on G+.
    • Normally I post up on my profile so I can track it later, but for some reason I hadn't and now can't remember who I sat with.  
  • No Shobo & no sewing today.
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Finished up Daiwagaku today and apart from maybe 2 or 3 areas I think I've got it.  
    • Found it actually easier than Choshi, even though it goes up into daikan register.  I still struggle with the Ha-Ro couplet in kan as I seem to drop down a register each time....must practice more!
  • Dana
    • Began searching for a new way to help others as the food drive is over.
    • A friend of mine showed me a beautiful framed cross stitching that he received from a lady whom he helps from time to time.  This inspired me to do the same.
    • My mother used to deliver food for Meals on Wheels organization to the elderly.  So I've decided to do the same.  On top of the deliveries, I've offered to do some grocery shopping or errands plus some yard keeping, should the need arise.
    • Have contacted the people at Metroport Meals on Wheels and have submitted my volunteer forms and background checks.
  • Evening Zazen (30m @ 8pm)

Ango 2011 - Day 25

  • Morning Zazen (45m @ 5am)
  • Shobo Study
    • Still on Mountain and Waters fascicle.  
    • Having a bit of a hard time following Dogen when he talks about the walking green mountains.  
    • Keep thinking there is an analogy here but just not seeing it.
  • Shaku Study
    • Getting better every day on the kan register...even on some daikan!
    • Listening to Yoru no uta over and this song.
  • Evening Zazen (30 min @ 9pm)
    • Sat without computer tonight.
    • I had it up and online in case someone popped on, but in the end it was just myself

Ango 2011 - Day 24

  • Morning Zazen (45 Min @ 5am)
  • Shobo Study
    • Reading Mountains & Waters fascicle and glad that I'm not doing a deep study as it's quite poetic and challenging without any commentary.
    • Much of this type of writing, including koan study I find challenging without reference to analogies from the era it was written.
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Heavy focus on the Ha Ro couplet as when coming to Ro in kan register it either drops to otsu or up to daikan...very tricky but it's just a matter of practice.
    • Choshi is getting much better and I've been able to finish Daiwagaku as the remaining part of it drops back to otsu and I find much easier.  Hopefully will make my next lesson with Jon easy.
    • Somewhat anxious about getting a new shakuhachi.  My wife & I have agreed that when my bonus comes in next month I can buy a new shakuhachi from Monty Levenson.  I'm looking at an advanced student one but I am honestly worried a bit on how different it'll be to play and if it'll set me back in my practice.  It's not a big deal, but I noticed that when I had a bit of a twist in my shakuhachi yuu it felt totally different and awkward.  I can't imagine a whole new shakuhachi.  Such is impermanence I suppose.
  • Evening Zazen (30m @ 9:00pm)
    • Sat offline tonight just because I find that my evening sits are ones where I'm kind of tired and lazy.  
    • I like sitting with others from my sangha online, but at the same time, getting all setup just is sometimes more than I want to do.  I just want to sit. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 23

  • Morning Zazen (45m @ 7am)
    • Sat sans the computer today...honestly was just trying to get it knocked out before the kids got up.  Probably not a good thing to be rushed to sit. Seems somehow counter-intuitive.  But nonetheless I was able to sit without any kid-terruptions. :)
  • Shakuhachi, Sewing Practice
    • Neither of these happened today.
    • Much for the same reason as the day before but now for my 3 year old.
    • My day consisted of hanging about 2000 feet of streamers.  It was a ton of work but looked cool in the end.
    • Also, while these areas of my practice didn't happen, I got to spend a lot of time with some friends.
  • Shobogenzo Study
    • Reading Transmission of the Robe and enjoying it.
    • Somehow part of me wants to crack open the Nishijima Cross and a few online translations I've picked up over time and do cross references and comparative analysis, but I promised myself just to read and enjoy...and I am!!
  • Veganism
    • So having two birthday parties in a row has made it super tough to avoid eating the cake.  i was successful but scarfed down about half a box of vegan cookies in the mean time. :)
    • My wife was kind enough to make pasta salad without the cheese as well as an asian coleslaw type salad that was delish.  
    • My wife is teetering on the fence about eggs lately.  I'm trying not to push her one way or the other, but I'm happy just that she's being mindful of it.  I'm a very lucky man.  Personally, I would eat eggs before milk/cheese.  Although it is definitely easier dropping eggs than lactose stuff.
    • Maybe this is a good opportunity to get my wife on the 'Build a hen house in our backyard' wagon! :)
  • Evening Zazen (30m @ 9:30pm)
    • Again a simple sit in the bedroom with Kannon. 

Ango 2011 - Day 22

  • Morning Zazen 
    • Didn't happen today.  First day I have missed in three weeks. 
    • I was a honestly a bit bummed out about this.  I had planned on sitting zazenkai in the morning but when I got up it just didn't seem feasible to carve out 90 minutes of my morning.  I had a birthday party to setup for my twin 9 year olds girls.  Balloons, decorations, food, music, the whole thing.  Most of which we had been working on prepping for the past few days, but this was crunch time.
    • After watching the clock and thinking about when they were sitting, chanting, kinhining I finally decided to let it go and was thankful I did.
  • Shakuhachi, Sewing & Shobogenzo Practice
    • Nope, nope and nope here as well.
    • After the party was over, the decorations removed and the house 'tidied' I had to get ready to take on of my daughters on a date for her birthday.  
    • So in lieu of the aforementioned, we went and had ice cream (sorbet for me) and watched a movie called Dolphin Tale. 
    • Was really nice and was surprised at how quiet she was.
  • Evening Zazen (30m at 10pm)
    • I did sit in the evening in front of the butsudan in my bedroom.  
    • Too exhausted to bring out the computer and all that jazz...just sat.  Was nice and felt like the first moment I stopped all day.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 21

  • Morning Zazen (45 min Zazen @ 11:30)
  • Alexander Technique
    • Unfortunately I missed my AT lesson this morning. I had thought it was at 10am and there was so much traffic taking my daughters to school that I was running very late.  Turns out it was at 11am...but didn't realize this until my teacher called.  Bummer.
  • Studies
    • No reading today either.  Slacked off last two days.  All three of my daughters have birthday parties this weekend so things are majorly hectic.  By the time I get to bed I'm too wiped to get anything out of Dogen. :)
  • Shakuhachi 
    • My suizen today after zazen was my practice.
    • I dabbled off and on today with some of my more difficult phrases and attempted to find sheet music for Yoru no uta.  My current favourite song.
  • Veganism
    • So this has been going very smoothly but I thought I'd post an update
    • Found vegan cookies this week and so all is right in the world
    • Went to lunch today at Which Which and I used to always get the Black Bean patty with hummus & tzatziki .  Well, before I did today I googled if the patty was vegan and it turns out it has egg & casein in it.  So that was out.  So I went with the veggies instead...however...I forgot to not check off the tzatziki.  I didn't realize this until I was already eating.  I gave myself kudos for effort, recited a short gatha in gratitude for any hardship the goat had to endure and ate.  I figured it was more of an insult to not eat it at that point then just finishing it.  After all, the theoretical suffering had already happened and so I should show gratitude and make a mental note for next time.
    • Took my 9 Year Old to dinner tonight for a daddy/daughter date.  She wanted hibachi and I have come to find it's difficult to find anything vegan at these places.  Ended up getting miso soup, ginger salad and agadashi tofu.  Forgot to ask for no fish flakes on the tofu and so had to scrape them off.  My daughter had!  She had a wonderful time and really was beaming.  Was very nice.
  • Evening Zazen (30 min at 10pm)
    • Sat with my wife on G+
    • She sits in the bedroom in front of our butsudan which is an old computer cabinet that we've allocated some space for Kannon & some incense.  I sit in my normal spot which is out in the living room.  May be a bit odd but I think it's nice as we are both kinda geeky and like the G+ Hangout stuff.

Ango 2011 - Day 20

  • Morning Zazen (45 Min @ 0630)
  • Dana
    • Finished up the North Texas Food Bank food drive and delivered the food.  
    • All told I was able to raise 45 cans of food for a total of 46lbs.  Not sure how much this feeds but happy I was able to do it.
    • When I dropped off the food at the food bank it was in South Dallas. Which is a low income area of town.  I saw people sleeping under bridges, hanging out on street corners and overall just a rough area.  Really set in perspective the people that probably benefited from the drive. 
    • While I was at the food bank, a lady came in asking about eggs & milk. Apparently she had stopped by to pick up some food and was lacking these items.  It really made me feel like I wish that I could do more.  Seeing the need with my own two eyes really brought it home.
  • Shakuhachi
    • Had my lesson today with Jon and it went pretty well.  
    • Choshi was an improvement, however I did struggle again with Ha-Ro couplet.
    • We continued on Daiwagaku and Jon seemed quite impressed that I was able to play the peak of the piece.
    • He explained that many students have a hard time with anything in kan register and this phrase was actually in daikan (next one up).  
    • Seems my only nemesis at the moment is Ha-Ro in kan...I think because I keep dropping back down to otsu with the Ro.  
  • No studies today. :(
  • Evening Zazen
    • Sat with Chris, Will & Nat on G+
    • Was first time to get to sit with Will!
    • I did it with my Android device and it seemed to work ok.  Only problems were that I couldn't re-share it nor add comments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 19

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 18

  • Morning Zazen (60m @ 06:00)
  • Shobo Study
    • Spent some time on Transmission of the Robe
    • Again, Dogen continues with the same reverence and expounding of the virtues of the robe and it's merit to those who maintain it properly.
  • Dokusan
    • Was able to have dokusan with Taigu tonight!
    • Was wonderful to talk with him about practice, flutes, studies, languages, retreats and of course sewing!  
    • The hour just flew by.
  • Shakuhachi
    • Practice the Ha Ro couplet over, and over, and over and over again.  
    • As I move up the register it get's easier, but that Ro is really difficult for me.
    • Started to play Choshi straight through without getting stuck and noticed it sounded better when I didn't overthink it.
  • Evening Zazen (30m @ 21:00)
    • Sat solo and without G+
    • Tried to get my Android tablet to show the video and join Ron but didn't work as I think Ron was already done.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 17

  • Morning Zazen (60m @ 06:30)
    • Again I didn't sit on G+ but for different reasons.
    • My 2, almost 3 year old woke up at 06:15 and wasn't going back to sleep.
    • My wife was already on a conference call for work and so I brought my daughter downstairs, put on Mickey Mouse, gave her some juice and grabbed my zafu/rakusu.
    • Sat in her play area with her, in case she needed something, so she didn't disturb my wife.
    • My wife got off her call sometime in between and so I was able to finish out my sit without any problems.  
    • My daughter has seen me sit enough that even when she does need something from me she creeps up to me and whispers "Daddy? Daddy?"  My wife has trained her well.
  • The Mind of Clover Study
    • Read the first chapter of Aitken Roshi's book in preparation for Jukai.
    • Also read three other articles from Daido Roshi, Josho Sensei & Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche.  All giving somewhat varied, but mostly similar impressions on the refuges and what they mean.
    • Very much enjoyed Daido Roshi's teaching, but it's not surprising as I've been a student of his for several years now so feel very comfortable with his writings/speech.
  • Zen Seeds Study
    • Spent quite a bit of time getting caught up on Zen Seeds Bookclub items.
    • Much of the discussion I didn't feel I had to add to the bookclub, however the last couple sections  I was struggling to be brief.
    • I shared the book with my wife tonight as I felt she would appreciate Aoyama's style of writing as we both have very much enjoyed Suzuki Roshi's books.
    • I find several comparatives in Aoyoma's teachings to that of Christianity. I'm not sure her background or influences but she seems to have a bit of a Christian slant to her phrases.  It's very subtle and almost imperceptible if you are not familiar with the Christian faith.  Will probably spend some time researching her senseis and background.
  • Sewing Practice
    • Sewed up the rakusu bag today.
    • Was a small project but I spent far more time than I expected on the cross-stitching on the front of the bag.
    • I've had problems with the other two bags I've sewn on this matter and this is by far the cleanest looking of the three.
    • Interesting fact.  My wife has some silk that she had bought while she was in Singapore several years back and the pattern on one of the pieces of silk matched exactly that of the silk I had bought at our local "Jo Ann's" fabric store!  Only difference was that mine was green silk and her's was dyed gold. 
  • Dana
    • Right before my sit tonight I was logging into G+ and setting up my zazen session when I noticed a post from a Buddhist acquaintance seeking donations for a run for Breast Cancer Foundation Run for the Cure
    • As I sat I began to think about my efforts to collect food for the hungry in North Texas. So far it's been just mediocre and I've struggled with feelings of frustration and disappointment.
    • That being said, I had resolved that when I finished my sitting I would donate to this cause.  While it's not much, it's something...and enough of 'something' can lead to be a big thing.
    • In addition, I chanted metta for all the sufferers of breast cancer...

May all victims of breast cancer be free from suffering, may they feel safe and still.
May all victims of breast cancer be free from enmity, may they be loving grateful and kind.
May all victims of breast cancer be healthy, and at ease in all their ills.
May all victims of breast cancer be at peace, embracing all conditions of life.

  • Evening Zazen (30m @ 20:30)
    • Sat on G+ tonight with Chris & Nate.
    • Was nice to sit with Nate as it's the first time I've been able to sync up with him.  He normally sits around 21:00 and I'm normally done or close to done by then.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 16

  • Morning Zazen (60m @ 06:30)
  • Zen Seeds Study
    • Spent some time getting caught up on Zen Seeds for the Treeleaf Bookclub
    • Really enjoying this book.  Aoyama has a Shunryu Suzuki type vibe to her writings.
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Spent some time on Choshi again and it's slowly getting better.
    • Today I just focused on the middle of Choshi and trying to hit the notes.
    • Tomorrow I plan on focusing on playing the entire piece through...regardless of quality.
  • Sewing Practice
    • Today I was able to finish up the rakusu for Jukai.
    • No major problems at all.  Only complication was when I had sewn two of the sao had to remove and switch. :)  This of course was right after watching the video where Taigu warns about this. 
    • Very happy with the end result and even happier that I enjoyed the entire practice.
    • I think after sewing a kesa the rakusu is like a breath of fresh air.
  • Treeleaf Tea Party
    • Joined the tea party again this week
    • This time it was just Shohei, Fugen and Grace on the call.
    • Felt like I talked too much but I blame Shohei as he kept asking me questions. 
    • Was nice however to be able to ask about 25 questions about the rakusu, it's sewing, it's wearing and hear some great stories from Shohei on his trials and tribulations.
  • Evening Zazen (30m @ 23:00)
    • Sat solo sans G+ tonight.
    • Mostly because I didn't finish the rakusu until later in the evening and I didn't feel like dragging my laptop over to the altar and getting it all setup.

Ango 2011 - Day 15

  • Morning Zazen (60 Min @ 8am)
    • Sat on G+
    • While sitting, my almost 3 year old used the potty.  For those with toddlers you know that this is an important milestone.  She's actually been peeing for quite some time.  However the pooing has not been happening.  Btw, I realize I could/should use #1 and #2 to denote the bodily function, but I'm a guy and even saying pee & poo is a bit high brow...sorry.   Anyway, I hear my wife congratulating her and making quite a big deal about the situation, and I pick up that she pooed on the toilet.  My daughter, beaming with pride and joy was so happy.  She was saying how she's a big girl now and no longer needs pull-ups.  My mind soon began think that maybe it was just a little bit as this has happened before.  And qualifying the true success of this milestone.  This is when it struck me.  The absolutes in life are only relative to our perspective.  From my daughter's perspective, it was an absolute fact that she pooed.  Milestone achieved.  This began a thought processes (and yes I know I should be seeking stillness and dropping all thought while in zazen, but such is my practice); when we analyze our lives, our teachers, our books, our information, put them in a tidy little box and secure the lid, we should be mindful that not all boxes are made the same.

The relative fits the absolute
As a box and its lid.

  • Samu:
    • Spent a good part of the morning cleaning up the house mindfully.
    • So far my wife hasn't seem to catch on that when I don the rakusu and start doing stuff around the house that I'm in 'samu-mode'. Meaning that I'm doing housework. Good thing for me because I can see me waking up in the morning with it already put on me, or maybe her giving me a hug and slipping the rakusu over my a hint. :)
    • Most of this was picking up my daughter's toys. She's very good about returning stuff back to it's spot after playing with it...but she's 2 and has some mis-steps. While picking them up I began to think about how fortunate she is and how I want to instill in her gratitude for what she has. So many kids these days, mine included, take for granted the life they live. I want to take action and give them a better perspective of this.
  • Shakuhachi:
    • Played just a little bit yesterday as it was quite busy.
    • I am definitely getting better at the kan register, though it is still very rough. Seeing the progression though is affirming.
    • My wife and I attended a performance called Silk & Bamboo in downtown Dallas. It was my sensei (Jon Johnston), his sensei (Stan Richardson) and a koto/shamisen player (Fumiko Coburn).
    • This is only the second time my wife and I have been able to go on a 'date' since my daughter was born and I was filled with anticipation. We both work from home and our daughter is in school, so we have the full day together and take advantage of it by stealing time for ourselves. But this was different. We were able to get dressed up and attend something cultural and a dinner as well! Was very nice.
    • The performance was amazing. When Stan walked out on to the stage with his shakuhachi in hand, wearing traditional Japanese garb (Haori, hakama and such), you could feel his intensity and presence. Very confident. He knelt in seiza and opened with current nemesis. I was floored. It was so beautiful, so light, so amazing. I was awestruck.
    • The second song was Shika no Tone. It's symbolic of two male deer calling to each other, staking their territory. From a western ear, it sounds quite sporadic, but with this thought in mind, you can envision the scene. Stan, still in seiza, began. Then in the distance, off stage, Jon began to answer the call. Slowing moving on stage, they continued back and forth, bantering as it were. Watching these two masters back and forth, back and forth I was moved deeply. I welled up inside but hid it well because of my ego. I didn't want to be the freak who was crying at a music performance at the Museum of Art. :) I was feeling so much pride and so much astonishment, so much humility.
    • After this, Ms. Fumiko Coburn joined with her koto. They played Sea of Spring. My absolute favourite. It was almost euphoric. To see this live after listening for so long was pure joy. Later in the set, Ms. Coburn played another of my favourites London no yoru no ame (Night Rain in London) and range and accuracy was astonishing.
    • Afterwards I was able to talk with both Jon & Stan. Having listened to Stan's albums for a while now it felt like having a backstage pass. His handshake said what words cannot explain. I consider it an honour to be a part of Mujuan dojo.
  • Evening Zazen (30 min @ 8:30pm)
    • Sat on G+.
    • Was tired this time but held it together.  Back was a bit sore because I had hung a ceiling fan earlier that evening.  I should have practiced semi-supine before hand I suppose.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 14

     While sitting zazen this morning I had received a couple teachings from an unsuspecting sensei. I was all settled in. Back straight, head forward, neck relaxed, legs crossed, hands in mudra and eyes dimmed. Wafts of incense filled my nose and I was reaching the still point. 
     Then I felt something on my head. Then on my ear. Next on my neck, elbow and knee. I glanced down and spied the tormentor...a common housefly, musca domestica. I assured myself that it would soon leave for more fruitful endeavors, but of course I'd be wrong. Agonizing minutes passed with it buzzing and landing on various parts me. When it landed on my upper lip, I decided that was it. I broke position and brushed it away. Seemingly having received the unwelcoming message, it left.
     Settling back down again, breathing deepening, I sat. Then it had the audacity to not only return, but land directly in my ear. With a violent shake of my head and body that I'm sure would have looked hilarious, had anyone been around, I had had enough. My attempts to overcome its taunts had failed and he'd have to be removed. Seconds later, he landed on my leg. Releasing the mudra, and with the agility and speed of a puma I scooped him up in my right hand. Finally I'd be rid of my nemesis and finally able to drop body and mind. I took him out to the back patio, opened my palm and with great relief watched him fly off.

Insight #1:
You cannot know what you hold in the palm of your hand, until you release your grip.

Returning to the zafu, I settled in once again. Bowing to the Buddha I felt an overwhelming peace and equanimity. Once again, with eyes dimmed, breath deepening, pulse slowing and a peaceful awareness, I sat. Then I felt it on my leg, again. In a disbelief and rage that would break several of the precepts, I glared down at my knee with eyes aflame, only to see, nothing.

Insight #2:
Much of our perceived suffering can only be found in our mind's "fly".

Nine deep bows to my sensei, the common housefly.

  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Had my shakuhachi lesson today and it went great. 
    • While I am still horrific on Choshi, I was able at least to hit the "Ha Ro" couplet, twice during the song.  The rest of it still sounded painful, but I was playing along with Jon and so much more tolerable.
    • We began our practice on Daiwagaku
      • Love the first part of this as it's in the otsu register and was very easy to play.  
      • Interesting to note that this is the first piece that has timing. As this was created by Jin Nyodo in the early 20th Century, he added it to know how the flow goes.
      • Also, the song has a natural flow and much explanation as to Jin Nyodo's thoughts on the piece.  Very much looking forward to learning more.
  • Sewing Practice
    • Spent only a few minutes sewing today, but was able to sew the middle stitch around the rakusu and also iron and mark the sao for sewing on another day.
  • Shobo study:
    • Finished Power of the Robe and have to say that I love the translation that Kaz has done for the Verse of the Robe.
Great is the robe of liberation,
the robe beyond form, the field of benefaction!
I wear the Tathagata's teaching
to awaken countless beings.

    • I love the awakening part of that verse and think I'll incorporate that into the verse as taught by Taigu.
  • Dana
    • Received another donation today from a neighbour for the canned food drive I am running.  Was very kind of them and in return I was able to give them some stain for their fence that they needed.  We are very fortunate to have such a loving and helping neighbourhood.
  • Alexander Technique Practice
    • Was able to continue some reading in the AT book Body, Breath and Being by Nicholls
    • Highly recommend this book, mostly because of the wonderful illustrations as well as the CD in the back that walks you through some of the technique.
    • Nicholls is my teacher's teacher and so it's also somewhat nice to train in the 'lineage'. ;)
  • Evening Zazen (90 Minute Zazenkai @ 7pm)
    • Sat zazenkai on G+ & with the sangha on
    • During zazenkai tonight, I was experiencing a crick in my mid back during the first 30 min of zazen.  I was unable to drop it no matter how I adjusted my sitting or relax my neck/back.  So during kinhin, I took up the semi-supine (at rest) position and lengthened my back.  When returning to zazen, it was completely gone.  I really wish this was more published and maybe more seminars on how to do this technique.  Private lessons are quite costly, but it's really something everyone should learn.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 13

  • Morning Zazen (60 min @ 6am)
  • Sewing practice
    • Today was a sewing day.  Spent much of the day sewing.  
    • However, I did take some breaks to 
      • watch Monsters Inc with daughter
      • go for a walk with wife & daughter
      • go to lunch with my buddy Tony
    • Started the day by sewing the first panel of the rakusu.
      • I did this while on a conference call for work, however a friend of mine posted up a comment on G+ about it questioning if it was in the right spirit to be multi-tasking, as the point of sewing is to sew...and for work is to work.
      • After my initial defense mechanism went down, and a few hours of sewing behind me.  I came to the realization that he was totally right.  Mostly because I really got into my sewing and being able to dedicate a decent portion of time to it, felt the beauty of the practice, with out hindrances or mixing it with other tasks.
    • Was able to get the 5 panels sewn, assembled and installed into the frame.
    • Only thing left on the frame is the middle stitch.
    • My wife and I had a good laugh when I held the first rakusu I had sewn up against this one.  You'd never guess the same person sewed them.  Both however are beautiful in their own ways.  I have many fond memories of sewing the first one...and maybe a few not-so-fond. :)
  • Shobo Study
    • Still on the Power of the robe, but almost done.
    • Read today on the 10 merits bestowed upon those who wear the robe...some were quite surprising, like defending against snakes?!
    • A bit disappointed in the book quality.  The translation is fantastic.  I think Kaz Tanahashi did a great job as did all his co-translators.  However Shambala did a poor job in assemble imho.  The contents are only in the first book as are the indexes.
    • Last night I was reading Instructions to the Cook and I had to dig out book two, which didn't have the table of contents, so had to go back to book one to look up the page.
    • Additionally, the binding on the first book is already breaking down and I'm only about half way through my first read!  Not very good quality for something that's $150.
  • Evening Zazen (30 min @ 11:30PM)
    • Doing this one offline as I am a bit tired and really just don't want to drag my laptop over and get it all setup. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 12

  • Morning Zazen (60 Min @ 5:30am)
    • Sat with Roky & Bob
    • Had a hard time thinking of someone I disliked when chanting metta today.  Guess I'm running out of people.  Maybe I should go to the DMV or something. :)
  • Shobo Study
    • STILL on Power of the Robe
    • Today I went through the various sizes and uses.
    • Also read on the Verse of the Robe.  Was a little different than I recite, but I liked the translation a lot!
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Finally I am starting to have breakthroughs on the upper register
    • Played each not and held it...requires a much tighter embouchure which means that my mouth starts aching after about 3 notes. :) 
    • Once again, need much more practice.
    • Looked once again at Monty Levenson's shakuhachi and trying to find more stuff to sell I don't use around the house.  I think I have an extra kidney...
  • Sewing Practice
    • Finished sewing on the second en and was kinda burnt out.  Those corners are very challenging to get correct.  Most of the time I find I'm winging it to some degree.
    • Also marked and cut my material for the rakusu for Jukai.

  • Evening Zazen (30 Min @ 7:45PM)
    • Sat with Engyo, Ron & Chris tonight
    • Sat in inverted half-lotus tonight (right on left) as I am trying to stretch my right leg as it gives me problems when sitting full lotus.
    • Maybe yoga is in order...or just stretching. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 11

  • Morning Zazen (60 Min @ 6am)
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Like  a broken record, I still am struggling with kan register in Choshi...feeling a bit frustrated but know that it just will take time and more practice.
    • Played it all the way through today and even though the middle sounded horrible, I tried to focus on my breaths and fingering and just ignored the 'noise'.
  • Shobo Study
    • Didn't read today and probably too tired to get anything out of it tonight.  Tomorrow is a new day.
  • Alexander Technique
    • Had my second AT lesson today and once again it was excellent.
    • Today I worked on raising my fingers from my chest while laying on my back.  Crazy huh?  But you'd be amazed how something so simple can still cause you to tense up.  I could actually feel my neck (with the help of my teacher) tightening when I even *thought* about raising my fingers.
    • So we practiced raising my hand up and putting it down over and over again trying to train me to not interfere with my normal mode of operation.
    • We also spent some time working again on semi-supine technique which I am grateful for.  Been trying to use it before zazen to get my position fixed.
  • Sewing Practice
    • Spent about 2 hours sewing the zagu this evening
    • Was able to get one en on and a second started.  had a few troubles with the corners (as always) so had to get a bit creative.
    • Still think that Tomoe Katagiri's guide on this matter is somehow off measurement wise...
  • Evening Zazen (30 min @ 8:30PM)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 10

  • Morning Zazen (60 Min)
  • Shobogenzo Study
    • Continued on with Power of the Robe and read more about Shakyamuni Buddha's previous life as Mahakaruna Bodhisattva and the merit's earned by his commitment to the kashaya.
    • Found it humorous that even people that wear the kashaya as a joke or for profit will gain merit.  
  • Meal Gatha
    • Had lunch with a vendor from work today and before I ate I gasshoed and silently recited a meal gatha.
    • I was more worried about making them feel uncomfortable, than really my feeling uncomfortable.  But then I figured that I'm the guy paying them for their product, so they can suck it up...with metta. :)
  • Sewing Projects
    • Went to pick up some more cloth for the okesa project but they were out of it...not a good sign.
    • Was going to use the same colour as the kesa for the rakusu, but since they were out I instead picked up some olive green.  
    • Also bought some thicker thread (I don't like the flimsy stuff).  It's harder to work with but find it more reliable.  
    • Finally, I picked up a magnetic pin nobody in the family ends up stuck. 
    • Found it funny that I was actually excited about going there.  I think Taigu is rubbing off on me.  I can remember when I used to go with my wife and dread it.  I felt so out of place.  Now I'm just one of the Golden Girls.
  • Shakuhachi
    • Practiced this morning for a while outside while it wasn't scorching heat yet. 
    • My wife was working on her computer while I was practicing robuki (Blowing the lowest note over and over again as loud as you can).  I mostly did it to bug her because I secretly resent her giving more attention to work than me...but don't tell her that.
    • Decided today that I would sell my guitar equipment in an effort to get a bit extra cash to buy a 'real' shakuhachi.   So I sold my old Schecter Classic and Crate Amp for $300.   Private sale the guitar was probably worth $500 but I really didn't want to have to deal with the hassle.
    • $500 more to go and I'll pick up maybe this 1.8 from Monty Levenson and finally will be able to play I'm sure it's the instrument holding me back. ;)
  • Evening Zazen (30 Mins)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 9

  • Morning Zazen (60 Min)

After morning zazen, I decided to chant EJKG around the mala and do prostrations for the merit of all those who have suffered because of war and terrorism. At about half way through, I started to wonder how many floors were in the WTC. Probably more than 108 (the number of beads on a mala), but maybe pretty close. Then I started to think about the people on each floor of the WTC. As I progressed higher and higher I felt a deepening sadness. By the time I reached the 108th bead, and subsequently the last prostration, I was leveled, much like the towers, to the cushion weeping. However, when I raised my hands on either side of my head, I envisioned the weight of the pain and suffering experienced that day being lifted. Almost as if the towers rose again, but in the form of healing and compassion for all.

May the udumbara bloom in endless spring and may we realize the Buddha Way together.

  • Shakuhachi practice was quite good today.  
    • Choshi is continuing challenge, but I'm able to hit the notes and hold them better in kan register.  
    • Also been practicing my furi's with some degree of success.
  • Shobo Study
    • Didn't happen today, and still might yet before bed, but feeling pretty wiped out and not really in a rush to grind it out.
  • Practice Partner Exercises
    • Was able to do Skype with Shohei today and it was great.
    • We got to talk about our backgrounds, our jobs, our practice and many of the challenges we face in life and practice.
    • Was able to join the Treeleaf Tea Party as well right after for a bit.  
    • Was nice to meet a new member to Treeleaf and talk to some old ones that I've not see much of lately.
  • Meal Gatha & Kids
    • Tonight we went to a place that is vegan friendly called Zpizza.  
    • Before the mean I said the meal gatha quietly to myself with my hands in gassho.
    • My daughter, Ciera, asked me specifically about it and why I said/did it.  
    • When I explained that it was similar to a prayer in Christianity she seemed to get it.
    • Today, also, during lunch my other daughter, Cheyenne asked how long I'd been a Buddhist.  They are becoming quite aware of sensitive to how maybe Dad is a bit different. :)  I had explained to her in referential terms she'd understand that it's been about 6 years.  She remembers  when I got my zafu/zabuton and it being around in the house back when she was quite young (only 9 now) and I think remembering back that far somehow makes my practice more comfortable and familiar to her, even thought it's starkly different than what she is familiar with.
  • Evening Zazen (30 Min)
    • Sat on G+ alone
    • Also been posting my sits now up to #OMcru on Twitter as well as logging it into Insight Timer.
    • Guess in some way I'm just looking to expand my sitting group but at the same time feel that all sitters, regardless of tradition, are my Sangha.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 8

  • Morning Zazen 70 Min (7:15am)
    • Woke up late this morning, jumped out of bed and hit the zafu as quick as I could so I could get a sit in before the house woke up.
    • In the interest of time I decided to forego the G+ Hangout and just do an Insight Timer on my phone.   I set the timer to 45 min and began my sit.
    • About 65 Minutes in I felt like it was running a bit long so glanced at the clock nearby and noticed  it was now 8:20!  Grabbed my phone to see that I forgot to hit start. :)
    • Fortunately only my wife had awaken and kids were all still asleep...modern day miracle!
  • Sewing Practice
    • Spent a few hours today cutting and sewing a zagu (bowing mat).  I wanted to have this for an upcoming trip to Zen Mountain Monastery so figured I'd take care of that before the okesa I'm steadily working on and the rakusu I should be doing for Jukai.
    • Using Tomoe Katagiri's guide for the instructions but finding them a bit light.  Also, the measurements seem a tad bit off...but maybe it's just my cutting job. :)
    • I did the morning part of my sewing on G+ Hangout and Engyo stopped by and we got to chat for a bit.  Was really nice!  
    • So far the kagami is attached to the backpiece and I have one of the four ens on.
    • Spent most of this practice meditating on the victims of war and terrorism.  Much metta to them.
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • I spent some time practicing the shaku today, although it was not formal, I did play off and on most of the day.  
    • Again I focused on Choshi and I think I'm actually getting a wee bit better...still brutal, but better.
  • Shobo Study
    • Still on Power of the Robe...enjoying it immensly, like a well marinated portobello mushroom.
    • Today was the discussion on Buddha's previous lives and how he sought merit and specially powers for the okesa when he was a Bodhisattva.  Was very interesting and first time I've read this section.
  • Evening Zazen 30 Min (10:30pm)
    • Was quite a bit later than normal but tonight was movie night with the kiddos so had to delay.
    • Sat alone on Google+

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 7

  • Morning Zazen (1 Hour @ 5 AM) 
    • Sat on G+ with Chris an hour earlier than normal
    • Had a hard time waking up.  Forgot to plug in the laptop and it died half way through which was a bit of a hiccup.
  • Angie and I had breakfast with our friends the Saarios.  Knowing my vegan ways, they introduced me to the wonder that is chocolate hazelnut butter.  I will now stock my pantry with cases and cases of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Again spent time on Choshi.  Again struggled with the higher notes.
    • Spent a good deal of the practice practicing furis (like a head bob for vibrato).   Would play each note and do the head bob up and down the scales.
    • Sat outside with the wife in the nice weather and played Kyorei which was nice.
  • Evening Zazen (4 Hours @ 6PM)
  • No Shobo studies today unfortunately.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 6

  • Morning Zazen: 
    • ~45 Min with Roky
    • Good solid sit.  I kept spine in check with AT and had no problems at all with sit.  Even my knees co-operated this morning!
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Had my weekly lesson with my sensei and it was good and bad, and neither. 
    • Finished Choshi, however the middle section moves up an octave to the kan register and just destroys me.  
    • Jon recommended practice and to tighten my embouchure. Also more breathe...something I am already in short supply of.
    • Choshi will continue to be our warm-up before each lesson, so I'll get heaps of practice with him.
    • Next week we start on Daiwagaku.
    • Funny story:
      • After my lesson I went and had lunch at a little bistro type place called Square One. After I had read some Shobo & finished eating, enjoying the beautiful weather, decided that I would spend some time in the park at the gazebo and play my shakuhachi. Sitting on a bench under the gazebo I bowed to the shakuhachi and proceeded to play Kyorei.  Approximately 10 minutes later when I finished, I bowed once again, only to be surprised by a round of applause by a pair of nurses who were eating their lunch on a bench nearby.  I simply said thank you and very quickly packed up my shaku and left.  The only saving graces were that there was a decent amount of road noise, and I'm pretty sure they had no idea what I was playing. :D
  • Shobogenzo Study
    • Continuing with the Power of the Robe
    • Read more on this today while enjoying lunch outside.  Was wonderful and very relaxing.
    • Today Dogen talked about the merits of the robe, the different types of cloth to be used and how to properly wash and dry it.  I enjoyed the practical aspects of the cleaning of the robe.  I've used them before when washing the okesa and very thankful for the instruction.
  • Evening Zazen:
    • ~25 Min with my wife & Engyo
    • Was great to see Engyo pop in and as always wonderful to sit with my wife.
    • Had a small crick in my lower back (installed a ceiling fan today and so may be associated with it)
    • Did a semi-supine spine technique before and after which I believe helped immensely.
  • Samu:
    • Spent a bit of time this morning listening to and converting Jundo's talk; SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Xin Xin Ming - (II) which I really enjoyed.  So happy for him and Mina.
    • I put this as Samu because each week when Jundo or Taigu post up a Sit-A-Long, I listen to it, convert & redistribute it to podcast and then listen to the podcast to verify.  
      • Throughout this process I think about all the people that will hear this talk and hope it helps their practice.
      • I think about how fortunate it is to be able to hear the dharma so far from where it began and so freely.
      • I think about how fortunate we all are to have a sangha that meets us where we are at. Especially as it is for many of us who do not have one near home.
      • How grateful I am to be able to know people willing to give of themselves to help others along the Way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 5

  • Morning zazen ~ 45 Min
    • Sat on G+ with Morelos, Roky & Chris
    • Used AT again and found that I need a lot of work and practice.  I keep slacking off and forgetting and then have to stop the bad habits again.
  • No problems with vegan diet today.  Bagels with hummous, vegan pizza and my wife (Angie) made mushroom & vegan chicken with rice for dinner.  Was great!  Pizza had vegan sausage on it which was just ok, but the rest was great as well!
  • Spent some time at a used bookstore with Angie.
    • She found several books but I struck out for the most part.
    • I did find one in the Taoism section called Aiden's Way.  Will be a while before I can really get to it, but looks interesting.
  • No shakuhachi. 
    • Instead I ran around town doing errands, and things for the kiddos.  Just ran out of time.
  • For samu, I "tried" to install a ceiling fan in my daughter's room.
    • It's hard to say that there was much meditation in my work while doing this.  In fact, I was so agitated by the end of it all that it made my sitting this evening very difficult.  
    • There were at least two opportunities where I should have put down the screwdriver and walked away, but I didn't.  
    • In the end, I did learn a valuable lesson.  It's very hard to see clearly when your mind is agitated.  I would also add, possibilities for success diminish greatly in such a state.  
  • Shobo Study
    • Still slowly proceeding through Power of the Robe fascicle.
    • Came across one of my favourite parts:
"It is called the clothing of emancipation, the robe of the field of benefaction, the robe beyond form, the unsurpassable robe, the robe of patience, the Tathagata's robe, the robe of great love and great compassion, the robe as a victorious banner, and the robe of unsuprassable, complete enlightenment."

  • Evening zazen ~ 25 Min
    • Sat on G+ but solo tonight.  
    • Just missed Pete and was a bit disappointed about that, have yet to sit with him.
    • AT tonight was horrible...or rather, I was horrible at AT...I'm sure the technique was just fine. 
    • I think I was so tense from the ceiling fan work.  Coupled with probably horrible AT posture while doing the installation, it probably just was too much for me so early in my training.
    • I will say however that I was inspired by my wife who sat with Kannon in our bedroom just before me.  Somehow I feel bolstered in my practice when I see her practicing.
  • Final Note.  Sometimes I feel I am an overly emotional person.  I'd like to chalk it up to having deep compassion, but I'm not so sure it's that simple. Today while driving, a funeral procession came by.  My wife and I pulled over, and turned on our lights. I bowed to the hearse and recited metta to the following cars, filled, no doubt, with saddened friends and family. By the end of the procession I was in tears and had no idea even who the person was.  Just feeling the suffering and sadness for the people passing moved me.  On the advent of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there are many stories on NPR about survivors and families of victims.  Both my wife and I were in tears to the point of having to turn the radio off when hearing the story of some of the firefighters who didn't survive.   I'm not sure why my reactions are so strong when I hear/read/see someone in pain. This weekend will be a tough weekend and I imagine I'll have to stay away from the radio. Luckily I don't watch TV so at least that barrage of 9/11 coverage will be mitigated.  Will dedicate my practice this weekend to the friends and families of those impacted by that tragedy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 4

  • Morning Zazen ~45min with Roky, Engyo and Morelos on G+
  • No problems today for vegan diet, although plans for dinner were somewhat squashed because the fake chicken patties had egg whites.  Instead I made pasta with red sauce & garlic bread.
  • Shobo Study
    • Started on Power of the Robe (Very happy about this fascicle!)
      • Love how Dogen shows the lineage of the teachings and expresses such reverence for it.  
      • I also love how there is a clear honesty on what is and isn't proper transmission.
      • Finally, the explanation of which sizes for which purposes are pretty neat.  I wonder how and when the rakusu came into place.  Was it just a convenience instead of doing a full size 5 panel?  Will have to ask Taigu.
  • Attended my first Alexander Technique session
    • Was absolutely revolutionary and quite honestly shocking.
    • I have always experienced a 'crick' in the middle of my back after about 15-20 minutes of sitting. 
    • Additionally, I notice in my hip joints a dull ache and requires periodic movement, even if just slightly.
    • Tonight however was phenomenal.  Using the methods I learned today I was still experiencing this discomfort, however I chalk it up to lack of experience with AT.  I was able to re-focus and direct my command back to lengthening my spine and removing the discomfort.  
    • My only concern was how to practice shikantaza when I have to continually inhibit and direct my mind back into a place that provides this wonderful posture?  Probably another question for Taigu.
    • Then again, maybe this comes naturally over time and the "pause" I have to have to do this will become shorter and shorter and not interfere with shikantaza. 
    • I also tried the technique with my shakuhachi playing and had a very hard go of it.  So much is going on with the shaku that I couldn't properly "not do" the bad things that affect my bad posture.  Again, maybe just inexperience.
    • Go back next week again for another hour session and greatly looking forward to it.  In the mean time, I will practice awareness and practice the semi-supine technique that helps build the necessary awareness.
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • I practiced off and on throughout the day.  Only really played Kyorei but focused once again on just trying to hit the notes in the kan register and hold them without the warbling and cut offs.  So, so hard.
  • Bought a beautiful statue of Avalokitesvara today.
    • Avalokitesvara is the Bodhisattva of compassion and she holds a willow branch and jar.  The willow branch is used to help ease suffering and the jar contains the dew of compassion.
    • It is for a Butsudan my wife and I are working on in our bedroom.  Actually its an old computer cabinet we no longer use and so the bottom portion will be dedicated to this purposes.  In this way, I can sit the 4 hour monthly zazenkai without interruption from the kiddos.
  • Evening Zazen ~30 min with Shinko & Angie on G+ although technically Angie was sitting beside me.  She said next time she'll sit somewhere else so that she can join on G+! :D

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 3

  • Started the day with a wonderful sitting
  • Had a bagel w/hummous for breakfast and had to share about half with my 3 y/o as we watched Monsters vs Aliens...great movie.
  • Shaku practice
    • Brought my seiza bench and a mat out in my backyard and sat in front of my zen garden playing.
    • My daughter played in the rocks ("fixing" the perfectly contoured lines) while I played Kyorei.
    • Didn't practice Choshi today as I didn't want my neighbours to call animal control. ;)
  • Shobo study
    • The Time Being
      • COMPLETELY lost on this one.  Read it twice and still nothing.  I'm going to chalk this fascicle as one I need to come back to.
      • In all honesty, all of them really are as such.  But this is one of the ones that I just didn't get at all.  
    • The next one is Power of the Robe and I'm super excited to read this as I've not yet read it in Kaz Tanahashi's translation.  
      • Being a okesa junkie (Thanks to Tomoe Katagiri, Kodo Sawaki and especially Taigu) I love reading the fascicles Dogen has wrote on the matter.  Probably spend a few days on this one.
  • Samu
    • Today for samu I scrubbed the floors in my house.  I was contemplating doing it soji style. But then I realized I'm too old and lazy.  Plus I'd probably kill myself doing it.  
    • So instead I busted out the old hockey gear, threw on the shin pads and got to scrubbing.  Was quite a sight.
    • Our entire downstairs is either tile or hardwood floors (except the master bedroom) and so it took maybe an hour.  
    • During that time I focused completely on the task at hand.  I thought about the trees that made the hardwood.  I thought about how they once stood tall and majestic and how they continue to provide beauty to my family.  How I must take great care of them and be mindful and respectful of their offering.
    • I also thought about the men who put them in my house.  The effort that must have been required. The pain and discomfort that I now felt in my knees and back and how they must have experienced it every day.  How wonderful of a job they did and how grateful I am to have their handiwork showing for years to come.
    • Also during this time I chanted Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo for a friend of a dharma brother from the sangha.  Much metta to him and his friends and family after a tragic accident.  Normally I do it 108 times (number of juzu beads on my necklace) but I'm sure it was at least that.  Then, afterwards I lit incense and dedicated the merit to his friend.  May the udumbara bloom in eternal spring...may we realize the Buddha way together.
  • Sewing
    • Broke out all the gear to work on the next kesa but then decided that maybe I should sew a zagu. Zagu is a bowing mat that can also be used in lieu of a zabuton.  Purpose is to keep your robe clean while you are doing prostrations or sitting.  I thought this may be useful for my retreat to ZMM at the end of the month.   Shouldn't take too long to sew and so put some time into that.
    • Ran out of material however for the kagami so will need to pick some up before I can continue.
    • Was able to cut all the other pieces however.  
    • I had planned on using the material from the obi that I wore in my wedding, but it's only 9" in width and I need twice will try to think of something else...or maybe sew two pieces together, will have to ask Taigu about that.
  • Rest of my day was spent building a doll house for my daughter, fixing sprinkler heads and going for a walk with the family.
  • Sat tonight for ~25 min zazen on G+.  
    • Was alone but was still a wonderful sit.
    • Been trying full lotus for the shorter evening ones and think that it's slowly getting better.  I normally sit half-lotus but prefer the stability in full.  Maybe some yoga is in order.
  • On a final sad note, one of the first fish I've had died.  Not really sure how, but Leroy was one of my favourites.  He was a sailfin balloon molly with a wicked attitude.  Gave him a proper send off with recitations and incense and hope his rebirth is a kind one.

Ango 2011 - Day 2

  • Started the day with ~45 Min zazen at 6am
    • Love this time of the morning for sitting.  So peaceful and quiet.  I also love to have the sun cresting the horizon about half way through.  
    • Only thing that could have made it better is if Morning by Grieg was being played on the shaku while I sat. :D
    • Sat publicly on G+ with Roky, Morelos & Kevin (the guy I mentioned in the previous post).  Was really happy to see Kevin join...and of course the old regulars. :D
  • Went for a bike ride with the family.
    • I'm not in great shape...but not in horrible shape either.  I'm a typical 38 year old computer guy with three yeah, you do the math.
    • Was great to be outside as it's been over 100F for the past three months in Dallas.  Dragging a Doodlebug behind my bike however brought me within an inch of my life.  But still great to be outside in 80sF temps!
  • Mowed the lawn after the bike ride
    • I always seem to have great insights while mowing the lawn.  Poems spring up like daisys (or maybe weeds), worlds are transcended and all that...but not today!
    • Today was nice because the grass wasn't too high, but, in the practice of samu I could feel I was really into it.  I thought about how I was happy to be so fortunate to have such a big yard...but after I was grumbling about so much grass.  I was happy about the fact that I was using an electric mower, showing compassion for the environment.  But only after I was reminiscing how I used to have the energy to use the pushmower that is now rusting in the garage.  I was happy to think about how Tuesday was trash day and that the grass clippings wouldn't smell for very long in the garage, but only after I thought about them taking up landfill space and how I should've mulched it.  So all in all it was a great mow.  The practice of mindfulness helped me overcome a lot of little things that would have dragged me down had I 'watered' their negative seeds.   So I count it a win!
  • Chop Wood
    • Well, we had a tree die in our backyard after a bad hail storm in June.  Only thing remaining is a 6" wide stump...and it's subsequent roots.
    • Being experienced in things household, I made sure I had the right tools.  
    • I removed my juzu beads and placed them gently to the side and then proceeded to beat the crap out of that stump....all to no avail.
    • About 30 minutes in my back was aching.  I was sweating like my buddy Chi when we used to take jiu jitsu (so, so gross) and I was completely beaten.
    • Cleaned up the tools and put them away for another day.  
    • Lesson learned here was to stop my old behaviour of getting angrier and angrier until I blew up.  I just realized that this practice was enough for the day and I moved on.  After all, as an old wise man said to me (my dad), "It'll be there tomorrow".
  • Lunch with the family @ Rosas (Mexican)
    • Went to have lunch at an old regular and come to find out EVERYTHING HAS LACTOSE!!
    • Ended up getting chips, salsa & guacamole.  Left the restaurant for the first time feeling good.  Normally I am bloated and lethargic, seeking any sleeping apparatus like a zombie for a B movie.
    • +1 for veganism! :D
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Once again worked on Choshi.  This time however I just focused on trying to get the right tone for a single note...and hold it.  Still sound like a warbler but at least I'm able to hit the note
    • Practice, need more of.
  • Shobo Studies
    • Studied the Receiving the Marrow by Bowing
      • Was intrigued by the discussion on women in the practice.  I like how Dogen was an EOE (Equal Opportunistic for Enlightenment)...though there is always somehow an underlying thread in Buddhism of sexism, it made me feel like Dogen was far ahead his time.  Many bows to him.
      • Reminds me of the other book I am reading for a book club by Aoyama called Zen Seeds...she was an amazing woman and I'm so happy for her contribution.
    • Valley Sounds, Mountain Colours
      • Was mostly lost in this one.  Very beautiful and poetic. I really liked the poem that Zhiqin gave to Guishan about the peach blossoms...struck a chord with me.
    • Refrain for Unwholesome Action
      • Liked this one because it falls inline with precept study for Jukai.  Although the whole "refrain from" took me a couple readings to understand, there were a ton of jewels in this fascicle. 
  • Visiting friends for dinner
    • Good friends of ours Jukka & Sylvie, invited my family over for dinner.
    • They know of my "condition" (Zen + Vegetarianism) and are very accommodating and show a genuine interest...hard to find in the deep south, on both accounts.
    • Angie & I made couscous with veggies and Sylvie had bought some veggie burgers for the wife & I.  When we arrived, Jukka offered me a beer...standard practice for our meetings.  However with my Ango commitments I had to forego.  Wasn't super hard to be honest, but in some ways the social aspect of having a beer with my buddy was a bummer.  Jukka and I went to go cook the food (burgers for them, veg-burgers for us).  I read the packaging (standard procedure for veg-heads) and noticed it has mozzarella cheese in it.  Rubber hits the road.  After about 10 seconds of contemplation, I decided I would eat the burgers anyway.  My logic is that these fine people are going out of their way to accommodate my vegetarian diet.  In fact, Sylvie actually even ate the veggie burgers with us.  My conscience and etiquette out weighed my choice to abstain for cheese and I feel good about it.  Had I made a stink or worse, lied about not wanting the burgers, I'd be an idiot.  They are our close friends and took great lengths to be kind...I could not trample on that.  The burgers were great and the onions (which Jukka did in grapeseed oil so I didn't have to have butter) were perfect addition.  Wonderful evening and wonderful friends....we are truly lucky.
  • Home late
    • I was exhausted after arriving home.  It had been a looong day and very full and I really wanted to crash.  It was only 10:30ish but when you get up at 5:30 every morning it just kicks your butt.  However, I really wanted to sit.
    • After I put my daughter into bed (already long gone asleep) I rushed downstairs and got to it.
    • 25 Min zazen with the usual liturgy and I was diving into bed.
      • Surprisingly I wasn't sleepy...though I always find that my mind has a tough time settling after a full day...maybe I should switch my duration to longer nights & shorter mornings...
      • No G+ tonight...just old fashioned sitting.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ango 2011 - Day 1

Today marks the first day of Ango for 2011.  I'm still trying to decide the format for my daily blogary, but maybe it can just evolve as the time passes.

  • Started Ango with a bang.  Hosted by Fugen, we had a 90 minute zazenkai which consisted of Zazen (30 min), Kinhin (15 min) and Zazen (30 min).  
    • Sat on Google+ with Dosho, Morelos, Shinkai, Soen & Roky.
  • Lunch with family @ Red Robin
    • Eating out is a challenge for vegans because everything has lactose in it in some fashion.  Fortunately they had a vegan Boca burger and fries which were pretty good.
  • Coffee with Tony @ Starbucks
    • Giving up coffee this was a challenge.  But I went with a Vanilla Bean Frap with Soy...was just mediocre and probably a green tea would've been a better choice.  
    • Great conversation about life and work but even cooler topics like Ekhart Tolle.  Tony is reading his stuff and it was quite interesting how 'zen' some of the philosophies of Tolle are.  I've never read anything so will maybe read so I can talk about the parallels more easily.
  • Shakuhachi Practice
    • Practiced Choshi and was pulling my hair out.  The notes move into the higher register (kan) and I sound like a strangled goose...must...practice...more!! (Wife had a headache but silently suffered...metta to her).
    • When I would get too frustrated, I'd focus back on Kyorei which is all in the otsu register and much more manageable for me. 
  • Dogen Shobo study
    • Read about cleaning our teeth with a willow twig and how I should scrape my tongue to near bleeding.  
    • Also read about how animalistic some of the Chinese practictioners were because they used sticks that had hair like clumps on them.  (um...toothbrush?)  
    • Couldn't find a willow twig around so just slummed it with the Chinese guys. :)
  • Food Drive
  • - Zazen (25 Min) Solo but publicly on G+.
    • Had an acquaintance on G+ mentioned he'd like to join me and then he sent me a private mail asking about my background and tradition and such.  Gave him the low-down on my practice and then directed him to Treeleaf for more information and support of his practice.  Would be great to have another G+'er to sit with!

Ango 2011 - Kick off

This weekend marked the start of Ango.  Ango is a three month intensive training period for Zen Buddhists.  With that, there is several things which one commits to with the goaless goal of deepening their practice.  As such, here are mine:

Commitments for Ango:

  • ~45 Minutes (1 long incense stick) morning zazen (6am CDT) + a few minutes of liturgy (HS, Sandokai, DoM, VoA, FV, EJKG & Metta)
  • ~25 Minutes (1 short incense stick) evening zazen (8pm CDT) + same liturgy as morning, maybe drop Sandokai, it's long, but I just really love it.
  • Full vegan. 
    • Previously I was a lacto-vegan (if that exists) and it was always a burden on my heart. To be so close to what I wanted to practice as compassion but not being able to drop dairy always has bugged me.
  • Dropping of soda, coffee & beer. 
    • Soda & coffee because it causes reflux for me and soda has lots of calories, so for health reasons. Beer because drinking 1 or 2 seems pointless. 
  • Shobogenzo reading each day
    • Academic study of Kaz Tanahashi's Shobo is my current focus. 
  • 30 Minutes of shakuhachi or sewing practice per day.
    • Depending on when I'm doing it sort of dictates which. Kids in bed means sewing...not shaku.
  • Dana
    • I have started a group on FB called Compassion in Action. First order of business is the North Texas Food Bank. Just doing a food drive and delivering it. After this I will begin to look at something maybe a bit different...maybe environmental or with people...still thinking about it
  • Nurturing Seeds Practice
    • This is a new one for me, but essentially not letting any negative 'seeds' take root in my thoughts.
  • Practice Partner Exercises
    • Weekly exercise to foster a strong practice with a partner and share Ango commitments
  • Meet with Jundo or Taigu at least once a month for dokusan.
  • Participate in Jukai preparations (Precept studies, Book readings and sewing of rakusu)
  • Formal studies and practices of samu.
  • Mindful eating preceded by meal gatha at each meal.
  • Commit to attending Rohatsu retreat in December.

My plan is to post up a daily blog on my successes, failures and insights.  This will provide a three-fold benefit. Provide my practice partner, Shohei, an update of my day.  Secondly, provide a nice way to look back over the 90 day journey.  Lastly, provide some boring, funny, sad and pointless data for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks & Gassho!