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Thread: the urge to glance / going to different temples

  1. #1
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    the urge to glance / going to different temples

    It's been 10 days since I started learning how to do zazen. I haven't done it every day, and not for very long each time, but I'm plodding along.

    I am trying not to be bitterly disappointed about the local brick-and-mortar zendo closing, but I have to admit that sitting in a real-life zendo situation, with others around you, pushes me to do zazen longer than I would at home on my own, and with seemingly more ability to drop my thoughts. Plus the atmosphere in the zendo is peaceful and healing, with its beautiful altar and bells on their fine cushions. Home, in contrast, is distracting and un-serene to me in so many ways.

    When I sit at home, I am especially bothered by one thing: I cannot resist the urge to look at the timer/clock and see how much time is left. I am not even sitting that long (10 - 20 minutes at a time), but I end up glancing at whatever time-keeping instrument I am using/is visible. I try to put it off, but I end up sneeking a peek once or twice (or more). ops:

    I remember having my watch on during one of the real zendo sittings, and still, I didn't even think of looking.

    I must be taking the wrong approach to zazen. I am so distractable and scattered. Trying to overcome a great deal of resentment and anxiety due to recent events in my life. Anyone have some thoughts on this?

    Another thing, about my disappointment of the closed Soto Zendo: there are other temples in my area, representing other Buddhist schools (Jodo shinshu, Chinese pure land, non-Soto Zen, and a handful of Tibetan places). Some are less convenient than others in terms of schedule and location. Would it be beneficial for me to attend different ones, even if I don't feel a connection with/interest in/agreement with their teachings? But meditation in any real-life group might trump the disadvantages.

    Ironically, it seems to me that the more interest I have in the teachings, the further away the temple is...or the less convenient their sitting times are :roll:

    Gassho,
    Julia

  2. #2
    disastermouse
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by murasaki
    It's been 10 days since I started learning how to do zazen. I haven't done it every day, and not for very long each time, but I'm plodding along.

    I am trying not to be bitterly disappointed about the local brick-and-mortar zendo closing, but I have to admit that sitting in a real-life zendo situation, with others around you, pushes me to do zazen longer than I would at home on my own, and with seemingly more ability to drop my thoughts. Plus the atmosphere in the zendo is peaceful and healing, with its beautiful altar and bells on their fine cushions. Home, in contrast, is distracting and un-serene to me in so many ways.

    When I sit at home, I am especially bothered by one thing: I cannot resist the urge to look at the timer/clock and see how much time is left. I am not even sitting that long (10 - 20 minutes at a time), but I end up glancing at whatever time-keeping instrument I am using/is visible. I try to put it off, but I end up sneeking a peek once or twice (or more). ops:

    I remember having my watch on during one of the real zendo sittings, and still, I didn't even think of looking.
    I don't see a problem.

    I must be taking the wrong approach to zazen. I am so distractable and scattered. Trying to overcome a great deal of resentment and anxiety due to recent events in my life. Anyone have some thoughts on this?
    This is called 'zazen'. Sometimes it's easier, sometimes it's not. It will be much less frustrating if, instead of judging your current state of mind as somehow insufficient and trying to pursue another state of mind, you simply look at and make friends with your current state of mind - whatever it is.

    Another thing, about my disappointment of the closed Soto Zendo: there are other temples in my area, representing other Buddhist schools (Jodo shinshu, Chinese pure land, non-Soto Zen, and a handful of Tibetan places). Some are less convenient than others in terms of schedule and location. Would it be beneficial for me to attend different ones, even if I don't feel a connection with/interest in/agreement with their teachings? But meditation in any real-life group might trump the disadvantages.
    There will be some very radical differences. Also, on the path of Zen, sometimes you sit with other people, sometimes you sit alone. It looks as though you might have to develop some strength with sitting alone. I sat by myself nearly the entire first four years I ever sat zazen - and even now, I sit alone far more often than I sit with a group.


    Chet

  3. #3

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Hey Julia
    As a fellow zonie with similar problems, I feel your pain. I think I know where you live based on the description of who's around; the non-Soto Zen group, if it is who I think it is, are solid people. I sat with them a bit like 3-5 years ago. Similarly, I'd avoid most Tibetan groups in the state and their weird lineage drama and politics. The Hsu-Yun zen/pure land people are okay too.

    I also am more disciplined when I sit with a group. I get scattered too. And I've been doing it a while. I don't think it means you're doing anything wrong; some of us just have hard minds/bodies to tame.

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Ten days; no big deal. Glance all you like. You'll grow out of it.

    Kirk

  5. #5

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    I bought a $5 alarm clock which I set for 20 minutes from whenever I start, and then put it behind me. I don't face any clocks. Still, sometimes I chicken out, though I've noticed I'm getting closer to 20 minutes when I do...

    I sat for probably 6 weeks before I noticed a "measurable" difference in the noisiness and distraction of my own mind. It does get better, and easier. Stick with it!

    Gassho,
    Tobiah

  6. #6

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    All of the comments above are good ones.

    My little bits of advice:

    --Don't look at the timer, but if you do, don't worry about it. Kirk's right, eventually you'll get tired of checking on the time.

    --See if any of the people who were attending the local Soto zendo are self-organizing after the closing. There may be a few folks who are sitting together despite the closing (surely some of them are continuing Soto-style practice).

    --Chet's right about regrets/worrying/issues. Let them do what they will while you are sitting. Neither encourage/follow those thoughts nor supress/agonize over them. Let them come and go, like clouds, winds, breath, etc. When you stop struggling, there will be no struggle.

    --Keep it up. Take it one day, one sitting at a time, but simultaneously be aware that like running or piano lessons you will have to make a steady and long-term commitment to realize that there is nothing to realize.

    Happy sitting and gassho,
    Bill

  7. #7
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Wow, good points from everyone, thank you.

    Chet -- After reading your comment, I suspect developing "sit-alone strength" could be better for me than group-sit satisfaction.

    Rebel -- greetings, fellow zonie. I got the same feeling about the Tibetan places. I didn't realize the non-Soto Zen group had been sitting that long, I will try to attend a sitting soon. I would also like to see the Jodo Shinshu temple at least once simply because it's got local historical significance. (From what I understand, Jodo Shinshu is a Japanese version of Pure Land.) The Chinese Pure Land place is actually the most convenient to my current situation. I am interested in knowing more about Thai/Theravada as well, but that temple is *way* far away. And I am most seriously interested in Soto anyway.

    Kirk -- Hope so! I am rather new, aren't I.

    Tobiah -- wow, six weeks. I'll keep working on--, er, doing nothing about it :wink:

    Bill -- besides myself, there was just the sensei and one other person attending when I went. (There are more people in another branch that remains open, but that's far away.) I only attended two sittings, so I never really got to know anyone well. The sensei has my information, and is supposed to contact me about future groups. But it's not "certain" a new place will be found in the near future. My interest in Soto Zen seemed to come up at a really bad time. But...here it is.

    Thanks everyone
    gassho
    Julia

  8. #8
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    These days I put the timer on in one room, do kinhin for five minutes into another room, then sit there until the zazen timer goes off. I have an enso timer that I can set up this way, and it works like a charm. You might try it with two alarms, or you could just set it and leave the room to sit.

  9. #9

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    I'll answer the first couple questions:

    I am not even sitting that long (10 - 20 minutes at a time), but I end up glancing at whatever time-keeping instrument I am using/is visible. I try to put it off, but I end up sneeking a peek once or twice (or more).
    If you are doing Zazen by yourself and don't have a gong, how are you going to know what time it is? You have to look at the clock. The thing that you should be noticing is the urge to look at the clock (which I think you are noticing already). btw there is also the Treeleaf gong.

    I remember having my watch on during one of the real zendo sittings, and still, I didn't even think of looking.
    Usually when your sitting at a Zendo some one else is timing the sitting, and you might put a little more effort into staying still.

    I must be taking the wrong approach to zazen. I am so distractable and scattered. Trying to overcome a great deal of resentment and anxiety due to recent events in my life. Anyone have some thoughts on this?
    Our Zazen is sometimes distracted and scattered. It's sometimes full of torpor or other things. We just sit with that and over time it balances out. There's absolutely nothing wrong with your Zen practice.

    Gassho

    Will

  10. #10
    disastermouse
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by will

    Our Zazen is sometimes distracted and scattered. It's sometimes full of torpor or other things. We just sit with that and over time it balances out. There's absolutely nothing wrong with your Zen practice.

    Gassho

    Will


    Chet

  11. #11

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    You can find downloadable mp3 meditation timers at http://www.treeleaf.org. Click on the "Go" button near the image for interactive meditation timers, then find the green square in the bottom left of the next page that says "iPod Zen timer". I use these timers on an iPod hooked up to some speakers, and it works well for me.

    As far as the descriptions you gave of your experiences, it sounds very familiar. I'm no guru, but I've been sitting for a little while (off and on for years). I remember being obsessed with time. In fact, during a sitting today I was thinking about the timer. It's just one of those thoughts that tends to come up, especially when you're self timing, as Will pointed out. No worries. Notice, release, and back to ZZ' (see link here http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewto...&t=1451#p20645 for that reference).

    Gassho,

    Kevin

  12. #12

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    I'll also mention the posture (which you've probably heard a hundred times). It should be neither to stressed nor too relaxed and slumped, but if you find yourself worrying about that, then just forget about it and sit.

    Gasshooo

  13. #13

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by Eika
    All of the comments above are good ones.

    My little bits of advice:

    --Don't look at the timer, but if you do, don't worry about it. Kirk's right, eventually you'll get tired of checking on the time.

    --See if any of the people who were attending the local Soto zendo are self-organizing after the closing. There may be a few folks who are sitting together despite the closing (surely some of them are continuing Soto-style practice).

    --Chet's right about regrets/worrying/issues. Let them do what they will while you are sitting. Neither encourage/follow those thoughts nor supress/agonize over them. Let them come and go, like clouds, winds, breath, etc. When you stop struggling, there will be no struggle.

    --Keep it up. Take it one day, one sitting at a time, but simultaneously be aware that like running or piano lessons you will have to make a steady and long-term commitment to realize that there is nothing to realize.

    Happy sitting and gassho,
    Bill
    Hi,

    Some very good comments, but I am going to single out Bill's advice above (just to save me lots of typing).

    It is really not a good idea to get in the habit of looking at the timer. In most Zendo, you do not even bring in a wristwatch (remember that if ever visiting a Zen hall). However, it is okay to look a bit now, but try not to make it a habit.

    Shikantaza Zazen, which is what I am teaching here, is different (the same, but different) from other paths of meditation. As a beginner, it is fine to find out about the different schools and ways of meditation that are available, but soon you have to pick one (either Judo or Karate or Tennis, not all at once. Focus on the violin or the piano or the guitar, but not all at once).

    And you need to stick with it for awhile before you see the fruit on the tree. Do not judge after just ten days. If you do not see some fruit even within a few weeks (and certainly within a few months), I will eat my Zen teacher hat. As Bill said, who is a piano teacher, it is something like piano lessons in that way. Be consistent, practice each day ... something will happen.

    Of course, what you think should happen may not be what you expect to happen ... you will have to make a steady and long-term commitment to realize that there is nothing to realize or change about this life (which is a TREMENDOUS realization that will radically change your life, top to bottom). Please make a point of watching my "Zazen for Beginners" series of talks, which may clear up some misconceptions (and conceptions).

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=447


    As several folks have said in different ways, in our "Just Sitting" practice it is very important that you taste that there are no "bad days" of Zazen, even the "bad days" of Zazen, and we keep on keeping on. As Will said, "There's absolutely nothing wrong with your Zen practice." That's especially true after just a few weeks of trying.

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Just another point about time. There was a time when I was obsessed by time, using a watch or clock (that didn't tick). After a while, I realized that I shouldn't force myself to worry about time. Now, when I sit, I may check the time before and after (slight obsession, but more just to know how much time I sat), but I just sit until I feel I don't want to sit any more. On most days, this ranges from a minimum of about 15 minutes (when I'm really perturbed, and can't settle down) to around a half hour. I guess I average around the Western Standard Meditation Time of about 20 minutes. I feel that if I just sit until I'm finished, I am more satisfied after sitting (even though I don't sit to be satisfied). Sometimes, when I did use a timer, it would stop me when I was sitting "well" and well absorbed, and really didn't want to stop (like when you're in a nice dream and don't want to get out of bed).

    Kirk

  15. #15
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Alan: I like the idea of kinhin to another room (i.e. away from the timer). I feel less distracted/distractable during kinhin than in zazen, actually.

    Will: My original post arose from a particularly torpor-filled sitting. Until then, mostly harmless thoughts have come up during my zazen ("should I make rice balls today, or pizza?" "I forgot to return that phone call") that are easily dropped even when they're numerous. But yesterday, big fears and memories of painful moments kept popping up, and that was the first time I had so much wall-to-wall negativity jumping out at me in one sitting. It threw me off. Thank you for your reassurance that it balances out.

    Kevin: I hope my post isn't what made you think about your timer Thank you for the reference -- it clarified the issue for me. I have the iPod timers, but I glance at the mp3 player's clock too. I glance at anything marking time...soon I'll be measuring shadows during zazen :roll:

    Jundo: Just today, I saw your "blender talk" - that hit the nail on the head perfectly! Now I'm starting to understand. I had considered my sitting of yesterday morning (which prompted my original post) a very "bad zazen day". I will let go of judgments and evaluations of my zazen sittings from now on...kind of a liberating thought, since I seem to be constantly evaluating things I do. In fact, these evaluations make up a great deal of the blender noise in my head...

    Kirk: I think I use a timer because I am afraid that I won't sit "long enough" if I just allow myself to stop when I feel finished. Now I want to try your way. I won't get much time out of it (5-10 minutes maybe), but I'd rather be "satisfied" with little time than feel strained.

    Many thanks and gassho,
    Julia

  16. #16
    disastermouse
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I guess I average around the Western Standard Meditation Time of about 20 minutes.
    Where did that 20 minutes come from? I remember reading about a time when Shunyri Suzuki said something like, "Why only 20 minutes? The Buddha never said 20 minutes. It doesn't say '20 minutes' in any sutra." (Paraphrasing from memory).

    Chet

  17. #17
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    That's a good question. It seems to be the amount of time that's always recommended. Jundo? Any history of this?

    Kirk

  18. #18

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Hi,

    Traditionally, time for Zazen is measured in a Japanese or Chinese Zen temple by the amount of time it takes one incense stick to burn. This can be anywhere from 30, 40, 50 to 60 minutes, approximately, depending on the length of the stick. However, most Zazen sittings in a Soto Zen Monastery in Japan are 40 to 50 minutes (45 minutes is standard), with 10 minutes for Kinhin. They usually come in blocks of two or three (for example, three successive Zazen sittings, with two 10 minute Kinhin periods sandwiched in between), followed by a break.

    I believe it is just the custom, from long experience, that 45 minutes is ideal. Some folks cannot settle down until many minutes into a sitting. Nishijima Roshi recommends that people sit twice per day. In our Saturday and Monthly "Zazenkai" netcast here at Treeleaf, we sit for 40 to 45 minute periods of Zazen.

    My recommendation of "25 minutes" at least once per day is on the short side, but recognizes the busy schedules of many people these days. I try to emphasize "quality time" in sitting over "quantity" to compensate, namely, if one makes poor use of the time caught in daydreaming, then sitting for an hour is an hour of daydreaming. Better to sit 25 or 30 minutes with good effort and focus.

    I also substitute (like a diet plan! :shock: ) several of Jundo's Patented "Insta-Zazens©" scattered through one's day as equivalent to a "second sitting". I believe that this not only recognizes the realities of most folks busy life, but captures the traditional aspect of Zen practice where "Zazen" was brought off the Zafu into cleaning the temple, washing the floors, working in the monastery kitchen, etc.

    For new folks who don't know about Jundo's PATENTED 'INSTA-ZAZEN©' please look here ...

    viewtopic.php?p=4029#p4029

    and here

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=705&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hil it=insta+zazen

    Gassho, Jundo

  19. #19

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Greetings,

    Your comment on your thoughts reminded me of the first advice I was given which is to just let thoughts be like clouds, let them float in , let them float out (and don't follow them out )

    A note on a non-soto zen place. You may find that the actual practice is totally compatible with soto practice (zazen is done in silence) but the kinhin may be different - perhaps slow then fast or just fast. Anyway, it might be a good support. And a great place to do a one-day or multi-day sesshin (zazen retreat). It is is a great experience. Please note that you should be prepared to switch to a chair or stool during the day (if you are sitting on a zafu) because frequently any position that is perfectly comfy for one or two periods of sitting can suddenly become painful after that. At a retreat, it is good to find out who is Shuso (the person you go to to ask questions). Otherwise you just follow along.

    Also, I have found that sitting "along with Jundo", even though he is not there and can't see me, is a tremendous help in keeping my butt on the seat

    Otherwise, everybody else's comments are wonderful.

    I did invest in a lovely timer which sounds a nice recorded bell soudn at the beginning and end and can be set to various times up to one hour. It is rather expensive but I nice investment, for me, in my practice. There are various ones you can find if you google for "zen timer".

    gassho,
    rowan
    who hopes she is helpful somehow to somebody somewhere.........

  20. #20

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    For new folks who don't know about Jundo's PATENTED 'INSTA-ZAZEN©' please look here ...

    viewtopic.php?p=4029#p4029

    and here

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=705&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hil it=insta+zazen

    Gassho, Jundo
    And What about Jundo's PATENDED 'INSTA-KINHIN'?! :mrgreen:

    gassho,
    rowan
    who walks a lot .......

  21. #21

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinho
    Also, I have found that sitting "along with Jundo", even though he is not there and can't see me ...
    Why do you assume that I am not there, you here, and that we can't see each other? :shock:

  22. #22
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    I feel so very far away from being able to do 25 minutes of zazen, let alone 45 or 50 :shock: I love the Insta-Zazen, and in fact I did a bit of that the other day (without even knowing it was patented :wink: ), in the car waiting 10 minutes to pick someone up. (No, not just any person. :lol: Long story.)

    Rowan: I just found out I have the choice of TWO, count 'em, TWO local non-Soto Zen places to visit :mrgreen: 8) One is unidentified Zen (is there a "just Zen"?) and the other is Rinzai. So I will see what I can manage in the coming weeks. However, both of them are somewhat less convenient than the local Chinese Pure Land and Jodo Shinshu places are, distance- and schedule-wise. I am just going to see what opportunities present themselves to me (as I continue to visit Treeleaf 8) )

    Retreats won't really be possible for me for the time being, but the Rinzai zendo conducts them, so it's nice to know that I won't have to travel extremely far in order to try out my first retreat someday.

    Speaking of sitting along with Jundo...what is the latest information about the Treeleaf zazen hall? No one is listed on the sitting schedule. I don't know from one day to the next when I'll be able to sit, but if sitting in the Treeleaf hall helps me sit still and stop scritching around and checking the time (i.e. because I feel like I'm being watched), perhaps I ought to try it.

    gassho
    Julia

  23. #23

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    It's been 10 days since I started learning how to do zazen. I haven't done it every day, and not for very long each time, but I'm plodding along.
    ...

    I must be taking the wrong approach to zazen. I am so distractable and scattered. Trying to overcome a great deal of resentment and anxiety...
    Congratulations! In only ten days you are aware of the "I" that is learning, distracted, and scattered. Many people live their entire existence learning, distracted, and scattered without the awareness of who is learning, distracted, or scattered. The awakening to this awareness is worthy of celebration, so be kind to yourself.

  24. #24
    disastermouse
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesVB
    It's been 10 days since I started learning how to do zazen. I haven't done it every day, and not for very long each time, but I'm plodding along.
    ...

    I must be taking the wrong approach to zazen. I am so distractable and scattered. Trying to overcome a great deal of resentment and anxiety...
    Congratulations! In only ten days you are aware of the "I" that is learning, distracted, and scattered. Many people live their entire existence learning, distracted, and scattered without the awareness of who is learning, distracted, or scattered. The awakening to this awareness is worthy of celebration, so be kind to yourself.
    It sounds like you're saying that she should say, "Yay! I'm a mess."

    And knowing is half the battle....

    w00t!

    Chet

  25. #25

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    It sounds like you're saying that she should say, "Yay! I'm a mess."
    LOL

    Gassho

  26. #26
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Haha....indeed, yay, I am a big freakin' mess...but guess what: I'm a mess *who sat last night for an entire 30 minutes without looking at any time-measuring device*. First time ever. w00t! 8)

    gassho
    Julia

  27. #27

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by murasaki
    I'm a mess *who sat last night for an entire 30 minutes without looking at any time-measuring device*. First time ever. w00t! 8)

    gassho
    Julia
    Super! I'm sincerely glad you pushed through this hurdle (even though it never really existed) . . . on to the next one!!!! . . . and the next, and the next, and the next



    Gassho,
    Bill

  28. #28

    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    It sounds like you're saying that she should say, "Yay! I'm a mess."

    And knowing is half the battle....
    "Yay"

    "Knowing" so that we may let go and let be.

  29. #29
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: the urge to glance / going to different temples

    Quote Originally Posted by murasaki

    Speaking of sitting along with Jundo...what is the latest information about the Treeleaf zazen hall? No one is listed on the sitting schedule. I don't know from one day to the next when I'll be able to sit, but if sitting in the Treeleaf hall helps me sit still and stop scritching around and checking the time (i.e. because I feel like I'm being watched), perhaps I ought to try it.

    gassho
    Julia
    When I first came to Treeleaf I sat in the hall but between technical glitches and perhaps laziness (I prefer to call it being too busy) I haven't in quite some time. Jundo has stressed several times that we are always sitting with each other and that there is no here or there, but it is nice to see a face now and again. One idea I've had lately is for folks who have a regular sitting time to post it so we can feel that level of connection even without webcams. However, too much clinging to even that can lead to suffering and if you followed all that you've already come a long way...or not at all.

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