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Thread: What My Rakusu Taught Me

  1. #1
    Senior Member Seizan's Avatar
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    What My Rakusu Taught Me

    Hello Everyone,

    Happy Holidays and sorry for the silence! I was reflecting on my rakusu and thought it would make a good post. I have to admit, when I first started sewing it was with minimal understanding of what I was really doing. More like "arts and crafts" time, not really anything with deep meaning yet. I've learned a few things along the way.

    First, I hardly ever set myself up for success. I tend to be on the stingy side with things and never allow myself all the proper tools to get things done in a correct manner. With my sewing, I didn't have a marking pen or chalk. I didn't have proper scissors to cut fabric. I didn't have a proper measuring device. This set me off to a rough little start- and paralleled a lot of other things in my life, from working with my horse to my job. I felt a weird sense of accomplishment when I went to the store and bought proper scissors, a sewing/cutting board, thicker thread and a fabric marker. I also picked a thread that contrasted a little more with the fabric so I could really see what I was doing. Guess what? It got a little easier.

    Second, I tend to panic and not trust outcomes. I also mentally put myself in a box, convinced I can't manage reading technical directions and things like that. I couldn't just read the directions or watch Taigu's videos and see how the individual steps fit the big picture. For me to measure, cut the fabric, and start without intimately knowing each step of the way was a challenge. In real life I often won't start something until I have obsessed over all the tiny details and am absolutely sure of success. With the rakusu I had to just dive in and trust that the measurements worked, that my sewing lines were right, and in the end I would have a finished product one way or the other. I had to trust that I had the skills to finish something I was starting without outside assurance. As pieces started to come together and form a part of the "big picture" I started to trust more. Who would have thought sewing would bring up my trust issues?

    Third, I kept wanting to redo pieces. Re-cut, re-sew, re-align. I kept looking at the work I was doing, judging myself and being dissatisfied. Particularly that dang en. I was hypercritical, knowing that Taigu was going to see my finished product. That contrasted thread seemed to be backfiring on me! And even though I put great care into the sewing, my lines are not what I envisioned. I had to stop thinking I wasn't "good enough," stop thinking negative thoughts about my "work," and just accept the piece as it was and move on. Otherwise I would still be on step one!

    Fourth, I found out that I CAN sew and that I CAN be a little technical (yes, to me measuring things and making straight lines falls into a technical category...) Not only can I do it, I actually like it- I like sewing. I've always wanted to sew, always picked out projects, then became daunted and gave up. Well the rakusu meant enough to me that I didn't give up.

    All that being said, I am embarrassed to send this garment off to Taigu. Oh well though! It is my first one, and it was a huge growing experience, and it was done with right mind and intention. And- I am going to start on a new one right away.

    This rakusu could also be borderline life changing. The fact that I did it and found something I like opened me up to a new possibility and I am going to realize another sidelined project, saddle making (with synthetic materials I should say.) I don't know if I will have a knack or affinity for it, or if I will like it, but it is technical and involves sewing and I've always been curious so this summer, here goes!

    I guess I should add in here that life in general is teaching me those lessons and more in a variety of ways. My sitting, my sewing & my relationship with my horse and close friends are all bringing up the same things over and over again. I feel like I've really been working through some stuff lately! A huge thanks to everyone at Treeleaf for just being here!

    I hope all of you are well and enjoying this time of love and family,
    Gassho,
    Dani

  2. #2
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Yes, what a great thing is to sew a Rakusu.... I also learned a lot, just that I can not even put it into words properly, and less with an English as shaky as mine :P ... all I can say is that I learned that, despite the fact that errors are errors (and actually I made many in my Rakusu) there are no errors....... one may fail to pay attention to every stitch, however, if you pour your heart into each one, there is no possibility of error, although it will be not THE perfect stitch, it will be PERFECTLY that stitch..... and the same with everything in life..... of course, I have to be aware of this fact all the time, and sometimes I forget, but as soon as I remember, my need to control things, to be PERFECT, washes a little away.... things ARE PERFECT, no matter if they go my way or else... I hope I managed to explain it well :P

    Thank you for this post and hope you enjoy this holidays as well

    Gassho
    ______________________________
    Kōshin / Leo



    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by kuanyinlove View Post
    I am embarrassed to send this garment off to Taigu.
    Don't be! Taigu sees with the eyes of a true teacher. Think of him as the loving parent watching their child's first school play...tears running down their face, dreams of stardom and cheering at the end with more enthusiasm than you'd think appropriate. He sees through the foibles to the true nature that is exposed in the result...just look at your post! That's the rakusu, not the rags.

    Thank you for your sharing your practice...it is inspiring and a welcomed reminder.

    Gassho,

    Dokan
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Anas Nin

  4. #4
    Senior Member Heishu's Avatar
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    Dani,

    Thank you for sharing.

    Gassho,
    Alan

  5. #5
    Senior Member Daisho's Avatar
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    As my Rakusu began to look like one, I was hooked. This is my first sewing project and before I started, I wondered if I'd actually finish. Then I started. I had to rip seams early on, but I started again. After that, each mistake was corrected with no thought of not finishing. Sewing became a refuge from things "outside." Sewing keeps my mind in the now, stitch after stitch, perfect and imperfect.
    Gassho,

    Daisho


    (Jack K.)

  6. #6
    Thank you for sharing this experience Dani. The practice of sewing the Rakusu is a beautiful one ... One that I will continue to practice.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  7. #7
    The Rakusu that I don't have has taught me that I should have one so I dont need to learn from the one I don't have when I have one. Or something like that.

    Gassho, JC.
    Last edited by Jishin; 12-27-2012 at 05:48 AM.

  8. #8
    For me sowing the Rakusu is wedding my practice with the practice of the lineage. The Buddha's practice flows forward starting as a small stream and becoming a wide river. To practice within a lineage is to practice with/for/as the whole river and all the ancestors. That's it in a nutshell.

    Gassho. kojip
    大山

  9. #9
    Hi Dani

    I agree with Dokan, Taigu has a big heart, and what's important to him I think, it's that you continue to sew to make this a practice of zen, another or the same expression of shikantaza

    Gassho

    Yang Hsin

  10. #10
    I can identify with everything said, I even bought the wrong kind of fabric (too strechy the lines were never even close to strait) so I got about half way through and had to start over.
    --Washu
    和 Harmony
    秀 Excellence

    "Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body" George Carlin Roshi

    https://threethirty.us || https://zenat330.wordpress.com

  11. #11
    Thank you for sharing Dani! Sewing the rakusu is the barrier to entry to Treeleaf.. and I found that the barrier was myself. It is a very special practice. It unites us as a Sangha. It is the Genjokoan. It is the 10,000 things meeting the self. It can be a pain in the ass! lol But we drop that pain to just sew again and again. It is zazen, and it is our practice.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  12. #12
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    Sewing the rakusu is the barrier to entry to Treeleaf..
    Wow I would never have thought of it like that, but I think it is true!

  13. #13
    A non-barrier barrier, the Gateless Gate.

    There is nothing to seek, and the door is always open. Yet at any Zen monastery in Asia, they will leave the person waiting to enter outside the door (traditionally outside in the snow, but in reality in a special holding room), ignored ... for hours, better for days, before his or her presence is even acknowledged.

    Before one can enter ... even if it is not literally 'out in the snow' (though sometimes so) ... one is left sitting Zazen morning to night for about a week in "Tangaryo" ... left in the same clothes, without a bath, their few belongings in a small bag leaning against the wall ...

    ..

    The sewing of a Rakusu is not like studying for a high school diploma., not even like struggling as a child to learn a new language. It is a process in which there must be some hardship and resistance precisely in order to learn the unlearnable lesson ...

    ... that there is nothing to attain, nothing to achieve, nothing to master, nothing to resist.

    Mistakes and dead ends are part of the road ... all to imbue one with the understanding that life has no "mistakes", no dead ends ... and that is so EVEN for the dead ends and mistakes.

    It is not a skill in sewing that you master, but a skill in finding the wholeness of life's tapestry.

    In fact, things may be too easy, too convenient. The hurdles may be too low. If anyone would be led more by the hand, shown how to avoid the mistakes and traps and blood from pricked fingers ... a disservice would be done.

    Life is often filled with things we want to "achieve" "get done" "accomplish" "get finished with", get a diploma or reward for. Not this. This sewing is not so.

    It may be time to raise the bar a bit ... make folks work for it a bit more ... for there is nothing to achieve.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    It is not a skill in sewing that you master, but a skill in finding the wholeness of life's tapestry.
    Wonderful, thank you Jundo.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Seizan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    A non-barrier barrier, the Gateless Gate.

    There is nothing to seek, and the door is always open. Yet at any Zen monastery in Asia, they will leave the person waiting to enter outside the door (traditionally outside in the snow, but in reality in a special holding room), ignored ... for hours, better for days, before his or her presence is even acknowledged.

    Before one can enter ... even if it is not literally 'out in the snow' (though sometimes so) ... one is left sitting Zazen morning to night for about a week in "Tangaryo" ... left in the same clothes, without a bath, their few belongings in a small bag leaning against the wall ...

    ..

    The sewing of a Rakusu is not like studying for a high school diploma., not even like struggling as a child to learn a new language. It is a process in which there must be some hardship and resistance precisely in order to learn the unlearnable lesson ...

    ... that there is nothing to attain, nothing to achieve, nothing to master, nothing to resist.

    Mistakes and dead ends are part of the road ... all to imbue one with the understanding that life has no "mistakes", no dead ends ... and that is so EVEN for the dead ends and mistakes.

    It is not a skill in sewing that you master, but a skill in finding the wholeness of life's tapestry.

    In fact, things may be too easy, too convenient. The hurdles may be too low. If anyone would be led more by the hand, shown how to avoid the mistakes and traps and blood from pricked fingers ... a disservice would be done.

    Life is often filled with things we want to "achieve" "get done" "accomplish" "get finished with", get a diploma or reward for. Not this. This sewing is not so.

    It may be time to raise the bar a bit ... make folks work for it a bit more ... for there is nothing to achieve.

    Gassho, J
    Thank you Jundo, and thank you to everyone else in the Sangha for teaching me so much in the last few months. I really appreciate Treeleaf being here, this truly is an amazing community.

    Gassho,
    Dani

  16. #16
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    And thank you Dani

    Gassho
    ______________________________
    Kōshin / Leo



    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by lipor View Post
    And thank you Dani

    Gassho
    Did do, thank you as well Dani.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Nengyo's Avatar
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    I learned that I cannot sew a straight line to save my life, no matter what kind of chalk line I draw. Related to that, I learned that I probably need an eye exam, as things are getting a little fuzzy at rakusu distances. I also realized that my thumbs and index fingers naturally attract needles from all directions. I learned that I'm not real good at following instructions per say, using them more like an inspiration. It was at times fun, boring, exciting, painful, challenging, stressful, and peaceful. However, most of all sewing a rakusu was a toddler magnet. I'm sure there is at least two spools of thread and a yard of scrap fabric lost in my house from where my son was "helping" me

    I'm sure the next one will be even better... and worse

    Metta to you Dani for sharing and to all the other rakusu sewers across time and space
    Try not to be a jerk-- one of the Buddhas

  19. #19
    Thank you Dani, and Jundo.
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  20. #20
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Though I did not sew this year, I learned that I can do pretty much anything I spend time trying to learn. Very encouraging. It taught me that I shouldn't be afraid to go out and do the things I want in life, because I haven't really failed anything I've sincerely tried.
    迎 Geika

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