Let's get a bit intense ...
SECTION FOUR: The World of Intensive Practice
4/4 - Sesshins without Toys p. 61
Let's get a bit intense ...
SECTION FOUR: The World of Intensive Practice
4/4 - Sesshins without Toys p. 61
We do so love our toys.
On page 61 Uchiyama says the word sesshin means “to touch or listen to the mind.” I wonder how it became associated with extended meditation specifically.
For those of you who sat for the extended session this Saturday, did you find that having such a long period of sitting made it more difficult to stay in the moment or did the extended time allow you to relax more into the openness and awareness of the boundlessness of the universal self?
Did you know that the Tropicana orange juice carton holds the secret to meditative wisdom?
"Nothing added, nothing taken away, not from concentrate."
(A tidbit I picked up from listening to audio by Dean Sluyter).
Similarly, I recently came across three pithy instructions for medication practice that were attributed to Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche:
not constructing or fabricating;
and not distracted.”
What are your views on the intensive meditation of sesshin? Is it done as outward demonstration of our inward qualities – our understanding that meditation is our path to being present for whatever comes, and our aspiration to be a skillful practitioner (so the repetition of self-discipline in combination with familiarization of our Buddha nature leads to more automatic/natural expression of the precepts in our lives)?
Do you find there's more exertion with the intensive sitting? Or is does it allow you to experience getting used to whatever is in any different way than a briefer sitting? There is a Tibetan saying: “Gompa ma yin, kompa yin,” which means: “ Meditation is not; getting used to is”.
At the last 5-day sesshin I attended, in a dokusan interview, I asked the leader of the retreat if it was essential for our practice to attend sesshin. He told me it was not essential but helpful. Maybe it's best not to have any preconceived views but just 'suck it and see'. A friend said to me before I went to a sesshin 'but it's 5 days out of your life'. I think it was more like 5 days in my life. I know this - after a couple of days my mind starts to quieten down in a way that doesn't happen with my daily practice.
John, I like your distinction of 5 days in your life (directly experiencing life) versus 5 days out of your life!
I didn't comment before on Uchiyama's reference to toys. The toys include our habitual preoccupations and our attempts to entertain ourselves. In some sense it seems ironic that we find security in this distractedness. But it is what's familiar. We have developed such habits in our thinking. Meditation (shikantaza) can steady/calm my mind. Less self-absorption.
Meditation can break habitual ways of thinking.
It is helpful to break patterns. . . . One of the many things that lead me to this path was listening to an audio of The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters by Sarah Susanka (an architect and the also the author of The Not So Big House). One of the exercises she suggested was to make a time and a place for solitude -- meditation (http://www.notsobiglife.com/resource...ndExercise.pdf). She provided very simple introduction to meditation.
What made regular meditation possible was also the result of another one of her exercises, which asked the reader to change three habits for several months (http://www.notsobiglife.com/resource...ndExercise.pdf). One of my habits was TV watching. So I gave canceled my cable service. I knew I'd be fine for a few months -- L-Word's season had ended. But then I never re-started the cable service after that (even after a new L-Word season began). And I can't receive transmission without cable. Admittedly, I do watch DVDs. But not having television service has offered me the chance to do more in terms of studying and practicing the dharma. It's made a huge change. So that's my story about meditation and entertainment.
There are certainly no toys or anything else to distract you from your self during a sesshin. However in daily life, although T.V. is considered a toy, I find I can restrict my viewing quite easily as so much of it seems such a waste of time. But I can't say the same for this computer!!!! I suspect it is also a toy and one which many people are addicted to. But - I would have some difficulty giving it up, and of course for many people who are perhaps housebound it is a lifeline. ( I can hear Jundo saying now "Everything in moderation!")
Janice, just want to thank you for mentioning something you heard from Dean Sluyter.
I hadn't heard of him but found his website and have been listening to some interesting radio interviews. He also seems to do valuable work introducing meditation to students in high school.
Jenny saidYou are welcome! Sluyter makes concepts accessible and fun! I'm listening to and reading his Zen Commandments -- though he admits the book is not Zen per se (he blends Buddhist and Christian and popular culture references and I believe his training may have been in the Dzogchen line) and the tips for sane living aren't really commandments either (the title is the publisher trying to market the book to sell).thank you for mentioning something you heard from Dean Sluyter. I hadn't heard of him but found his website and have been listening to some interesting radio interviews. He also seems to do valuable work introducing meditation to students in high school.
Apparently he was a film critic for a while. I signed up for a weekend course he will be leading at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in November 2008 called Cinema Nirvana: Enlightenment Lessons from the Movies https://bcbs.dharma.org/Pages/course...ction=&image=1. He has a book by the same name that I've yet to read. We'll tackle films like Casablanca, North by Northwest, Jaws, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, A Night at the Opera, The Graduate, and a Looney Tunes short film!
So entertainment and yet perhaps the application of a broad perspective as well. But no sesshin. Any one care to join in?
Jenny saidYes. In fact checking email first thing in the morning and as frequently was another thing I gave up in response to Susanka's exercise. I am back to checking email frequently again, but still not right away as I start the day.I can't say the same for this computer!!!! I suspect it is also a toy and one which many people are addicted to
When i dive i leave my floaty toys on the ever changing shore.......on pg. 64 Uchiyama says"A person who decides to do zazen after reading my explanation has quite a different attitude from one who might just come and sit zazen unquestioningly. There are also many people who are concerned with intellectual understanding-- that is, they are full of argumentative theories. In order that these opinionated people may understand through their own experience that zazen is not theory--it is something you actually do--i have them dive right into this totally silent zazen practice.
Yes - sounds like me. But we need some intellectual understanding to complement our practice, don't we? Or are books about Buddhism just toys too?on pg. 64 Uchiyama says"A person who decides to do zazen after reading my explanation has quite a different attitude from one who might just come and sit zazen unquestioningly. There are also many people who are concerned with intellectual understanding-- that is, they are full of argumentative theories. In order that these opinionated people may understand through their own experience that zazen is not theory--it is something you actually do--i have them dive right into this totally silent zazen practice.
Janice - that's an excellent introduction to meditation. I'm going to send the link to a friend,
Hi, all. Just now getting to posting this week.Originally Posted by John
Yes, I think books can be toys/distractions/etc. But I think they can be very useful too, otherwise all of these great Zen teachers wouldn't be writing them. I see books as being similar to the tools we use to build things. They can be things we collect (I certainly went through a period where I bought a lot of tools for the basement), things we play with like my kids do, and things that we only carry around when we need them, then put down when the job is over. My opinion is that the last use is the most mature. A hammer is just for working, not for carrying around. Hammers are heavy so carrying one will slow us down and be an annoyance, BUT sometimes we really need a hammer. The trick is knowing when we are trying to impress ourselves and our friends with all of our cool tools versus an efficient use of tools.
I particularly like Uchiyama's reference to zazen being like the time immediately before death. I have often used that imagery to get my attitude straight before sitting down to zazen. The peace of letting everything go--the job, raising kids, money, eating, smiling when you don't want to, thinking, thinking, thinking, etc.--must be a place of astounding tranquility. The cool thing about zazen, I think, is that we get to voluntarily get a glimpse of that tranquility without having to deal with the whole death thing.
This week, I was emailing a Shambhala-trained teacher who is leading a course on the Six Paramitas. I was trying to clarify the meaning of some terms from the readings by Trungpa Rinpoche, and I expressed that I felt like my efforts at categorizing were necessary to move forward even though the labeling might be dualistic in a sense. And he offered the following which I found helpful: "conceptuality is a bridge. One image commonly used is that concepts are like the fire sticks used to start a fire -- in this case the fire of wisdom -- which them consumes them."we need some intellectual understanding to complement our practice, don't we? Or are books about Buddhism just toys too?
So let's start a fire!
Yes, we have to do it, no doubt about that. But how do we get to the point in our lives where we accept this? I think without a bit of inspiration and motivation beforehand - just as Uchiyama Roshi provides in his books - no one would just spontaneously sit and stare at a blank wall for long periods of time before asking a few questions first.Originally Posted by Uchiyama Roshi
Great metaphors, Bill and Janice. And I agree with Kenneth that the books (and teachers) are good for inspiring, motivating us and increasing our understanding. Maybe they help us to 'awaken' a bit quicker too but we have to avoid being too attached to them or thinking that all will be revealed to us if we just get the right book or teaching. Mike Luetchford claims not to have studied any Buddhism except the teaching given by Dogen and Nishijima and I guess there's some merit in that,
Uchiyama really makes one see that anything can be a toy.
Thanks for the links, Janice!
I sold my TV set this past Saturday, rearranged the furniture in the room, getting a well lit corner for zazen. TV was one of my favourate toys too and I realise the full extent of this "obesssion" only now that I cannot press the remote control button without actually knowing what I am doing and WHY. At the same time I wonder what my substitute toy will be. I spent almost the entire day reading, hanging out with the cats who were shocked to see me so available and responsive to their demands for attention... If these are my new toys at least they make me feel balanced at the end of the day.
It welcome your posts as you go through the book.
My appreciation for my dog has grown as I've practiced. He's an English Setter who was rejected by his first owner for not being a good enough hunting dog. I may be reading or working on the computer and he comes and puts his head on my lap. He shows boundless love and I see such presence when I look in his eyes. And it reminds me to be fully present for him.
He's also been a big help in getting me up earlier to move to the cushion. When I was studying the paramita of exertion, the teacher at the Shambhala Center asked us to notice what was keeping us from sitting -- perhaps the comfort and warmth of the bed or something else. But at the time, I was just rising as the sun rose and then beginning the practice. So morning meditation didn't seem to require much exertion. In order to experience this differently, I started setting my meditation timer (which has an alarm feature) for 4:30am. If I don't arise soon afterwards, the dog will get up and I'll hear the click of his nails on the hardwood floor or I'll feel his nose nudge me gently. So I thank him for helping me. And it's not that he has to go outside. As I get up, he goes with me into the room where I sit and he just lies there quietly 5-8 feet away.
Enjoy your cats
You sold your TV Irina? that's a drastic step! You must be really serious about your practice I just try to be selective about what I watch. Anyway - I don't find that many TV programmes interesting any more. But maybe that's because I'm getting old
Janice. You reminded me of the little border collie/cross dog I had to have put down 3 1/2 years ago. I had him nearly 14 years and still miss him. He used to sit beside my bed and stare at me when he thought it was time I got up in the morning (he didn't make any noise). You get so attached to pets and their lifespan is so short Don't know the answer to that - but I decided not to get another dog. I would find it too difficult to look after one now and it wouldn't be fair to the dog.
Janice: thank you for sharing the experience. For most part of my life I thought of myself as a "dog person" but when I got the cats I realised I knew as little about them as about myself :? . Mine are a great help in my practice. For a while I could get very irritated with one of them who was very verbal and "spoke up" when she needed attention. Which is exactly when I was busy doing something else. :mrgreen: I noticed that the sounds she made brought out a wave of irritation in me. Noted that and started using that as a check in point for where my mind was at the moment of the sound. Bringing myself to the moment also helped me to see my cats and their need for attention.
Interesting observation: my dog could stay with me for as long as I would allow it. If one of my cats comes to me and I start clapping it, looking her in the eye or not, whenever my mind wonders off from where my hand she feels it and goes away! At first it puzzled and irritated me - you should be thankful I am sitting here with you! - but now I use these moments as a clapping zazen moment. Just see what is there and stay with it. And I see so much, they are truly beautiful creatures! I only have one complain: I cannot leave the zabuton on the floor by the wall where i would like to keep it. As soon as I am off it, one of them checks in (leaving half of her fur on it).
One of them comes to sit with me, actually.
John: Yes, I did. Quit it cold turkey. :mrgreen: (Tony tought me the expression, I hope I used it correctly 8) ).
I love independent films a LOT and would like to see more of those instead of sitcoms that become an easy choice when one feels tired after work. So out it went, just like that and none of us here misses it. :lol:
I can relate to what you said about developing a bond with the pets. Well, mine have been with me for 10 years now and it feels the three of us girls are still in pretty good shape and I hope all of us will stick around for a while longer. :roll:
Irina & company