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Thread: Proper Posture

  1. #1

    Proper Posture

    Jundo,

    In a 'typical' Zendo does the teacher not help the students with proper sitting posture and technique? While I 'feel' that my posture seems to be 'proper' I still have that nagging feeling that it may not without having anyone there to ever comment on it ;-) I can build an image up in my head on what is proper all day long, but it may not be the correct image!

    So, do we your students (or future students) have a method in which you can help us sit in the proper posture? Possibly posting of pictures of ourselves sitting, and commentary to follow? Or any method really .. ;-) Or would this even be necessary?

    :?: :?: :wink:

  2. #2

    Re: Proper Posture

    Hi,

    You have touched on perhaps the one and only true limitation we have in this online format: I cannot reach out and adjust your posture.

    So, we have developed a couple of work-a-rounds on this. One is that you do need to make the long drive to the nearest Zen Sangha for a check-up on your posture. Some people can get to one, even if with a little difficulty.

    The other, which is not bad at all (and quite good ... the Lotus Position is just a yoga position!), is to find a friendly yoga instructer in your neighborhood, explain the situation (including how we hold the hands in mudra in Zazen, and the style of our Zafu ... a little different from most Western Yoga), and get a tune-up there.

    In fact, the yoga option proved so good for some folks, that I tried it too. It was very nice.

    Finally, if you can get the camera on your computer to show you in profile, I can try to judge that way. However, that is tricky, as the camera can be deceiving (mine has a convex lens that always makes it look like I am leaning), and I cannot reach out to adjust.

    Other than that, there is not one thing that a bricks & mortar Sangha can (non)accomplish that we can't (non)accomplish too! :wink:

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Proper Posture

    tonight i was able to get a buddy to stop by and take a front picture, a side picture (sitting on a zafu makes my belly look big, ha!), and a picture of my legs. would these be of any use or would a live demo be needed?

    in order to overcome the issue with the concave effect on the camera folks can quite easily hook up their consumer grade camcorders to their PC's and do a live conference with that instead of a web cam. i'd be more than happy to demonstrate and maybe write up a little 'how-to' as a last resort solution for those that happen to already own a little camcorder of some sort.

  4. #4

    Re: Proper Posture

    Hi replicant,

    One simple trick I came up with helped me quite a bit in 'testing' my posture: Get into your normal sitting position with a wall directly behind you and make slight contact with the wall at the back of your head, your shoulderblades and your buttocks. Just sit like that for a minute or so and you'll get a feel for what your posture should be like when you're facing the wall. When I first tried that I was quite surprised to find that what I had previously considered to be a perfectly upright position was in fact a position in which I was slouching forward a bit.

    Gassho
    Ken

  5. #5

    Re: Proper Posture

    Hi.

    Sitting upright making the body right, right?

    i also find a mirror (or two) can be a good help for getting "the feel for the right posture", or just a lot of sitting...

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Proper Posture

    Good suggestions! I always wondered too so i tried using the video feature of my digital camera and set it up in on a 3/4 view and let it go until the disc was full. After sitting i loaded it on to the computer and found that I couldn't tell if i was straight up and down or not. one thing i could see was that my head slowly tilted forward until my nose was on the 45 degree angle :B and then i corrected for it... time and time again. (i watched this Benny Hill style in FF, really should add that sound track to it ) anywho im more consciences of it now and find it is happening much less.

    Gassho, Dirk

  7. #7
    Stephanie
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    Re: Proper Posture

    My recommendation for people uncertain about their posture is to go somewhere and do a week-long sesshin. You very quickly learn what is going to leave you sore, if not in incredible pain, and what is going to allow you to sit well hour after hour, day after day. I've learned that how a teacher or person looking at you may judge the 'correctness' of your posture may not actually reflect the best way you could be sitting in terms of stamina and comfort. Then that information sticks with you, because it becomes a matter of pure survival at sesshin.

    It was in doing sesshin that I learned that for me, sitting in Burmese is better, and more effective, than sitting in Full Lotus. In a single sitting period, Full Lotus has its advantages, but I found that Burmese was more stable--no joint pain, less numbness, none of the instability that comes with the top leg slipping down the thigh of the other leg (the only way I can combat this is when my legs are bare, which is not an option at a Zen center). If I'm feeling especially scattered, I'll sit in Full Lotus at home to focus, but I generally sit in Burmese now and don't give it a second thought.

    I also learned how to avoid back pain and tension while sitting in this way--by stretching my arms out so that my shoulderblades come really close together, and keeping them tucked that way. What I learned served me well enough that I was able to sit for 3-4 hours at a time on solitary retreat with only a pause for a quick stretch between sitting periods, if even that. So that's what really tells you--not a mirror, not someone else, but your body. It's forgiving in the short term, but will tell you that you're sitting wrong if you sit long enough and pay attention to it.

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Proper Posture

    ^^ very sound advice!
    Gassho, Dirk

  9. #9

    Re: Proper Posture

    sorry for the late reply, haven't been able to get a post out for a week or so, busy times!

    thanks for the replies! I think I like Jundo's suggestion on finding a local yoga teacher and speaking with them about it. i've seen some fliers posted in my building for folks that actually practice in my neighborhood so it would be heck convenient. Oh, I also like the back against the wall idea, that one I can give a shot right away! 8)

    Now there is a local Zen center in Dallas, but the lineage is not one I'm familiar with:

    http://www.mkzc.org/

    Is anyone familiar with their lineage? From the site it seems like a mashup between Soto and Rinzai, and because of this I never found myself interested in checking the place out. Since I study and practice Soto it would seem not a wise idea to mix things up a bit. Maybe I'm being a bit too much of a 'purist' so to speak?

  10. #10

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by replicant
    Now there is a local Zen center in Dallas, but the lineage is not one I'm familiar with:

    http://www.mkzc.org/

    Is anyone familiar with their lineage? From the site it seems like a mashup between Soto and Rinzai, and because of this I never found myself interested in checking the place out. Since I study and practice Soto it would seem not a wise idea to mix things up a bit. Maybe I'm being a bit too much of a 'purist' so to speak?
    Hi,

    Their teacher, Rubin Habito, is a very nice fellow. The group is associated with Sanbokyodan, and is a "Soto-Rinzai mashup" as you put it (I love that term). I have written about Sanbokyodan and the Yamada-Harada-Maezumi lineage here before.

    I am not being critical, although our way is different (same ... but different). I primarily provide such information because folks should know that there are very different approaches to Zen and Zazen, and not all "Zen" is of the same flavor (same ... but different). Thus, folks go to the book store and pick up a "Zen" book, or listen to a talk, and wonder why the contents seem so different sometimes (same ... but different ) I posted the following a couple of times ...

    as I have mentioned a few times, there is a relatively recent line that popped up within Soto-shu that actually is a hybrid with Rinzai Zen (their priests are also Rinzai priests) and, more importantly, largely split off from both to form an organization called Sanbokyodan. Those within the lineage that did not split from Soto are rather a breed all their own within it. That line is much much more influential outside Japan than in Japan, because it happens to be the source of such lineages as the Diamond Sangha (Aitken Roshi), Rochester Zen Center (Kapleau Roshi) and the White Plum (Maezumi Roshi). While the Sanbokyodan portion left Soto-shu, some of their people stayed within Soto-shu in name (including the priest who established the two temples you mention (Toshoji and Kannonji). However, books like the one you mention (another one is Kapleau Roshi's 'Three Pillars of Zen') muddle the whole story. They are big, booming, explosive "Koan-focused Zazen" folks. More power to them, but the attempts sometimes to unite that with "Just Sitting" Dogen are often an awkward fit at best.


    The Sanb˘ky˘dan (Three Treasures Association) is a contemporary Zen movement that was founded by Yasutani Hakuun (1885-1973) in 1954. The style of Zen propagated by Sanb˘ky˘dan teachers, noteworthy for its single-minded emphasis on the experience of kensh˘, diverges markedly from more traditional models found in S˘t˘, Rinzai, or Oobaku training halls. ... There is little in Kapleau's book to suggest that his teachers were anything but respected members of orthodox Zen monastic orders. Yet such was not the case, for in 1954 Yasutani Hakuun (1885-1973), the Zen priest whose teachings are featured in The Three Pillars of Zen, severed his formal ties to the S˘t˘ school in order to establish an independent Zen organization called the Sanb˘ky˘dan, or "Three Treasures Association." The influence exerted by this contemporary lay reform movement on American Zen is out of proportion to its relatively marginal status in Japan: modern Rinzai and S˘t˘ monks are generally unaware of, or indifferent to, the polemical attacks that Yasutani and his followers direct against the Zen priesthood. Orthodox priests are similarly unmoved by claims to the effect that the Sanb˘ky˘dan alone preserves the authentic teachings of Zen. ...

    The only acceptable "solution" to the mu k˘an in the Sanb˘ky˘dan is a credible report of a kensh˘ experience, and beginning students are subject to intense pressure during sesshin -- including the generous application of the "warning stick" (ky˘saku or keisaku) -- in order to expedite this experience. The unrelenting emphasis on kensh˘ and the vigorous tactics used to bring it about constitute the single most distinctive (and controversial) feature of the Sanb˘ky˘dan method. Eido Shimano, recalling Yasutani's first sesshin in Hawaii in 1962, writes:

    The night before sesshin started, Yasutani Roshi said to the participants, "To experience kensho is crucial, but we are so lazy. Therefore, during sesshin we have to set up a special atmosphere so that all participants can go straight ahead toward the goal. First, absolute silence should be observed. Second, you must not look around. Third, forget about the usual courtesies and etiquette" . . . He also told the participants, and later told me privately as well, of the need for frequent use of the keisaku. That five-day sesshin was as hysterical as it was historical. It ended with what Yasutani Roshi considered five kensh˘ experiences.
    (Nyogen et al. 1976, pp. 184-85)[28]

    While Yasutani's successors are considerably more reserved in their use of the ky˘saku, the emphasis on kensh˘ has not diminished, prompting one student of Yamada to refer to the San'un Zend˘ as a "kensh˘ machine" (Levine 1992, p. 72).
    Students who do succeed in passing mu, along with a number of k˘ans used specifically to test the veracity of the experience (such as the "sound of one hand"), are publicly recognized in a jahai ceremony -- an offering of thanks to the congregation. This rite, which is performed at the end of a sesshin or other group gathering, begins with everyone formally seated in the zend˘. A senior member leads the celebrant(s) to the altar, where each is handed a stick of incense. The celebrants make individual offerings of incense and bow three times to the altar, whereupon they walk to the opposite end of the hall and bow three times to the r˘shi. They then circumambulate the zend˘, hands folded in gassh˘ (palms pressed reverentially together), and each seated member of the assembly bows as they pass by. The celebrants make a final bow at the altar, and a group recitation of the Heart Sutra concludes this otherwise silent ceremony.[29]

    Upon passing mu the practitioner receives a booklet containing the collection of "miscellaneous" k˘ans that immediately follow mu. And last but not least, the student is presented with a sort of "diploma," consisting of a shikishi [5] -- (a square card used for formal calligraphy) with the character mu brushed in the center, signed and dated by the r˘shi.

    The r˘shi will remind the student, both in private interviews and in public talks, that kensh˘ is only the first small step along the path to full awakening. Be that as it may, the Sanb˘ky˘dan treats kensh˘ as a significant achievement. Upon attaining kensh˘ students are publicly lauded in the jahai ceremony, and encouraged to write a report of their experience for publication in Ky˘sh˘. The names of post-kensh˘ students are clearly marked with a circle on sesshin seating plans, and as mentioned above, a second zend˘ may be provided allowing the post-kensh˘ group to practice apart from the others. Finally, pre- and post-kensh˘ students are often listed separately in the sesshin reports that appear in Ky˘sh˘. (Note that each of these practices are Sanb˘ky˘dan innovations -- there are no public rites of passage marking the attainment of kensh˘ in S˘t˘ or Rinzai monasteries.)

    Following the teacher's authentication of kensh˘, Sanb˘ky˘dan students move through a program of 600 to 700 k˘ans following a format set by Harada based in part on traditional Rinzai models. The practitioner first tackles the "miscellaneous k˘ans," which consist of approximately twenty-two k˘ans in fifty-seven parts. He or she then moves through the Mumonkan, Hekiganroku, Sh˘y˘roku, and Denk˘roku [?MĂ] k˘ans, followed by T˘zan's five ranks (T˘zan goi), and three sets of precepts.[30]

    Whereas passage through mu requires nothing short of kensh˘, passage through the remaining k˘ans is relatively straightforward. After formally approaching and bowing to the r˘shi the Sanb˘ky˘dan student recites his or her k˘an, and then presents (or "demonstrates") his or her understanding. If the answer is deemed satisfactory, the teacher himself may supply a more "traditional" response. All of this is more-or-less typical of Rinzai practice today. However, Sanb˘ky˘dan teachers do not use jakugo (capping phrases) -- set phrases culled from classical Chinese literature used to test and refine a monk's understanding of a k˘an.[31] Moreover, unlike Rinzai monks, Sanb˘ky˘dan practitioners are not required to compose written expositions of the k˘ans in the latter stages of their training.[32] The Sanb˘ky˘dan has, in short, sharply curtailed the explicitly "literary" aspects of k˘an training.

    As a result, once they have passed mu Sanb˘ky˘dan students tend to move through the remaining k˘ans at a relatively rapid pace, often completing one k˘an per interview. With regular access to a teacher and frequent participation in sesshin, a practitioner can complete the entire course of post-kensh˘ k˘ans in approximately five years. At the same time, if the r˘shi feels that there are inadequacies in the student's training, he may reassign certain k˘ans in dokusan (including mu), and Yamada led periodic study groups (kenshukai) for advanced students in which he reviewed the k˘ans in a more seminar-like setting.

    Once the k˘ans are complete, students proceed through a series of higher certifications that allow them to teach and may eventually result in Dharma transmission. There is considerable ambiguity in this regard, however, in part because the Sanb˘ky˘dan draws simultaneously from S˘t˘ and Rinzai conceptions of transmission -- conceptions that are not always compatible with one another. This is responsible in part for the controversy over the teaching authority of Yamada's senior disciples that emerged following his death, an issue to which I will return below.


    http://www.terebess.hu/english/sharf.html
    One real criticism I do have is that some folks in that lineage are always writing books and articles in which they try to prove or assert that Dogen was also a "Koan Zazen" or "Big Kensho seeking" guy. He simply was not, no matter how much they try to revision history. (Our Soto perspective on "Kensho", by the way, is that sometimes such views appear, sometimes they do not, sometimes they are big little or not, and all is the scenery of Zazen. We run after nothing, seek no special states ... with the perspective that "not seeking to-the-marrow any special state" --IS-- a very very special state and way to be).
    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #11

    Re: Proper Posture

    And speaking of different flavors of things, a little essay that was in the paper this week ... For Yoga folks ...

    chicagotribune.com
    More than just a pose

    By Rupa Shenoy

    September 14, 2008


    I was at a swank party recently when a half-Indian, half-white friend pulled me across the room to join his conversation.

    He had mentioned to friendsŚwhite friendsŚthat he had attended a yoga class and had been upset by the use of Hindu religious terms. They thought he was being touchy. They were making fun of him by chanting, "Namaste," and bowing mechanically from the waist.

    Besides mispronouncing namasteŚit's NUHM-us-thayŚthe partygoers were using it the wrong way. It's a salutation, not a chant, and has gone out of style as too formal in many areas of India.

    I felt as my friend didŚuncomfortable in a way I could not put my finger on.

    As an Indian-American, I accept that yoga has gone mainstream. Hinduism is an all-encompassing and welcoming religion that accepts even atheists.

    My problem is that there hasn't been a mainstream discussion about how tens of thousands of non-Hindus are practicing an art central to that religion while not always representing it properly. And there hasn't been much talk about how American yoga studios are making money from selling that religion.

    Partially, that's the fault of American Hindus. We haven't really brought it up. Again, our religion is very accepting. But, generally, we don't really like to make waves.

    I found this attitude to be true among at least half of my extended family. That extremely unscientific sample divided into two groups: The immigrants don't think this is a big deal, but many of my fellow first-generation Americans have a small story of yoga outrage.

    My sister attends classes, but on her first visit, a religious faux pas was immediately apparent. A small statue of a Hindu god sat in front of the room. If my sister did the postures correctly, her feet would have pointed in its direction. In Hinduism, that's the highest symbolic gesture of disrespect.

    This issue has been a big problem before. You might have heard about the flap in 2003 over American Eagle's selling of slippers with images of a Hindu god. That was outrageous enough to get even Hindus to protest.

    A cousin who grew up in America attended yoga-instructor training classes in New York taught by a "guru" who was supposed to be an authority. But when the teacher explained the philosophies of Hinduism, he got the basics wrong.

    And there are rights and wrongs. Though, like any religion, Hinduism is open to interpretation, yoga fundamentals are laid out in its most ancient texts. Most people in my cousin's classes didn't know that.

    Though instructors who mention the complicated names of their swamis may want to impress their students, this does not indicate approval by a Hindu authority. Present-day Hinduism is incomprehensibly diverse. You can probably find a guru to back up virtually any assertion. It doesn't take much to call yourself a swami. In fact, there are lots of them back in India.

    The immigrants have a point, though. Yoga does a lot of good for a lot of people, and I'm glad that more people are discovering it. But my family's elders grew up in India, where they weren't minorities; most people around them were Hindu. They never needed to explain their religion to people, so they don't see why Hindus who grew up in this country might be more critical of how Hinduism is portrayed here.

    As someone who has confronted caricatures of Hinduism all my life, including the turbaned bodyguard in "Annie" and Mike Myers in "The Love Guru," I'm a bit more protective and defensive.

    Though yoga is a part of Hinduism, it's just that: a part. We're talking about one of the world's ancient religions. There's a lot more to it, including the values and ethics that guide my life. Out of respect for those philosophies, I only wish people who pay money to experience my religion could know more about it.

    Or, I wish they could remember that yoga isn't just something taught in trendy studiosŚit's part of a religion and culture that deserve respect.

    Rupa Shenoy is a Chicago journalist.

  12. #12

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Their teacher, Rubin Habito, is a very nice fellow. The group is associated with Sanbokyodan, and is a "Soto-Rinzai mashup" as you put it (I love that term). I have written about Sanbokyodan and the Yamada-Harada-Maezumi lineage here before.

    I am not being critical, although our way is different (same ... but different). I primarily provide such information because folks should know that there are very different approaches to Zen and Zazen, and not all "Zen" is of the same flavor (same ... but different). Thus, folks go to the book store and pick up a "Zen" book, or listen to a talk, and wonder why the contents seem so different sometimes (same ... but different ) I posted the following a couple of times ...
    Does this particular group in Dallas also combine elements of Christianity? Aside from the fact that the sangha is named Maria Kannon (something which I had missed a long time ago), I read excerpts from Dr. Habito in their web page and notice the use of Christian thought in their Zen.

  13. #13

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Once the k˘ans are complete, students proceed through a series of higher certifications that allow them to teach and may eventually result in Dharma transmission. There is considerable ambiguity in this regard, however, in part because the Sanb˘ky˘dan draws simultaneously from S˘t˘ and Rinzai conceptions of transmission -- conceptions that are not always compatible with one another. This is responsible in part for the controversy over the teaching authority of Yamada's senior disciples that emerged following his death, an issue to which I will return below.
    Took me a bit to read it, but this is a point that doesn't really mesh well with me, just a personal thing that is, which is the 'level' one attains and what not. I mean, it's kinda like a Black Belt for Buddhism .. Same thing with the Tibetan empowerment stuff, like I said personally just not my cup of tea.

    Now, with that being said this was the reason I didn't seriously entertain the idea of visiting this center, even it it's only 5 miles from where I live! The form of zazen seems to be the same, but I'm not sure if it's possible to just sit w/o the other discussions. I guess a simply email to the folks their could answer that for me ;-) Not sure if it would be offensive to them thou .. :?:

  14. #14

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    And speaking of different flavors of things, a little essay that was in the paper this week ... For Yoga folks ...
    this reminds me of the of the Hotei Buddha' as compared to the Shakyamuni Buddha .. :lol: :lol:

  15. #15

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Does this particular group in Dallas also combine elements of Christianity? Aside from the fact that the sangha is named Maria Kannon (something which I had missed a long time ago), I read excerpts from Dr. Habito in their web page and notice the use of Christian thought in their Zen.
    This was another reason I didn't want to check this place out, me not being a Christian .. But, as I stated since the sitting is seems to be the same style I wonder if I could just sit there w/o any discussions .. :?: 8)

  16. #16

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by replicant

    Took me a bit to read it, but this is a point that doesn't really mesh well with me, just a personal thing that is, which is the 'level' one attains and what not. I mean, it's kinda like a Black Belt for Buddhism .. Same thing with the Tibetan empowerment stuff, like I said personally just not my cup of tea.

    Now, with that being said this was the reason I didn't seriously entertain the idea of visiting this center, even it it's only 5 miles from where I live! The form of zazen seems to be the same, but I'm not sure if it's possible to just sit w/o the other discussions. I guess a simply email to the folks their could answer that for me ;-) Not sure if it would be offensive to them thou .. :?:
    Hi,

    Well, my wife who is a black belt both in Ai-ki-do and Karate will tell you that "black belt" just means being a true beginner. A beginner with a few basic skills "under one's belt", but a beginner.

    And don't judge a book by its cover. You should go and take a look, try the Zen group out, before seeing if something is right for you or not. If you want to "Just Sit", for example, they may have lots of folks on that path too (many of the centers in that lineage pursue both ways).

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by replicant

    Took me a bit to read it, but this is a point that doesn't really mesh well with me, just a personal thing that is, which is the 'level' one attains and what not. I mean, it's kinda like a Black Belt for Buddhism .. Same thing with the Tibetan empowerment stuff, like I said personally just not my cup of tea.

    Now, with that being said this was the reason I didn't seriously entertain the idea of visiting this center, even it it's only 5 miles from where I live! The form of zazen seems to be the same, but I'm not sure if it's possible to just sit w/o the other discussions. I guess a simply email to the folks their could answer that for me ;-) Not sure if it would be offensive to them thou .. :?:
    Hi,

    Well, my wife who is a black belt both in Ai-ki-do and Karate will tell you that "black belt" just means being a true beginner. A beginner with a few basic skills "under one's belt", but a beginner.

    And don't judge a book by its cover. You should go and take a look, try the Zen group out, before seeing if something is right for you or not. If you want to "Just Sit", for example, they may have lots of folks on that path too (many of the centers in that lineage pursue both ways).

    Gassho, Jundo
    Hi.
    someone said, someone said "all paths lead to the same goal, it only takes them different time to get there even if they were there from the beginning..." or something like that...

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  18. #18

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by Filur
    someone said, someone said "all paths lead to the same goal, it only takes them different time to get there even if they were there from the beginning..." or something like that...
    Even if you are member of the Church of Satan? :twisted: :mrgreen:

  19. #19

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Quote Originally Posted by Filur
    someone said, someone said "all paths lead to the same goal, it only takes them different time to get there even if they were there from the beginning..." or something like that...
    Even if you are member of the Church of Satan? :twisted: :mrgreen:
    Hi.

    I do believe even if you are a member of the church of Jundo.

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  20. #20

    Re: Proper Posture

    Quote Originally Posted by Filur
    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Even if you are member of the Church of Satan? :twisted: :mrgreen:
    I do believe even if you are a member of the church of Jundo.

    May the force be with you
    Tb
    You made me spill my coffee. Oh my.

    Please, I already have a few evangelical friends who think that Jundo is leading the Church of Satan over here. Please do not put any ideas in anyone's head! :shock: :twisted:

    Anyway, more than a "church", I think of this place as a movie theatre. I'm happy to think of myself as just the part time projectionist or guy behind the candy counter!

    Gassho, Jundo

  21. #21

    Re: Proper Posture

    Can you point me to the bathroom?

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