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Thread: Some thoughts on struggling with practice and a link

  1. #1

    Some thoughts on struggling with practice and a link

    Hello everyone,

    I havenít written anything of length on here for a while, but I felt like it today, partly because itís Ango, and partly just to say hello to everyone. So, since itís Ango, I wanted to post a little something about struggling with practice. Kaishin recently posted a talk by Eshu Martin about unpleasant zazen and about commitment to practice. To me, Eshu is basically addressing the kind of practice that doesnít penetrate, that is maybe what Jundo would term ďwatching the clockĒ zazen, a kind of sitting that is sat so one can talk about how they are sitting, that they are being a good Zen Buddhist, that theyíre really going deeply into life. I can write that previous sentence because thatís me, too Ė thatís not a judgment of any others, thatís something I know about myself. I easily slip into lazy practice. If Iím too tired, maybe Iíll just skip sitting tonight, I tell myself. Maybe instead of a half hour, Iíll just sit twenty minutes. This, of course, isnít the right attitude to have. This is practice thatís all about gaining, all about being a good Zen person, in a really lazy way. Like Eshu says, we just go around and around and around, never changing, never really confronting the reality of ourselves.

    (At the same time, I think it worth acknowledging that we all have different ways of practicing. Some can be very committed and only sit once a day Ė maybe this is wrong, but I sincerely believe that. Some of us can have a cell phone and not be distracted by it; thatís not me, so I donít have a phone. Also, in the same way, I know I need to push myself in practice, and whatís strange about that, is when I do that, thereís an effortlessness that arises in the sitting, and practice itself expands.)

    But what I wanted to add is this thought: along with the idea of lazy practice, thereís another type of practice that I think is a little off, a little wrongheaded, and it moves in an entirely different direction. Itís a kind of practice where everything is Buddha this and mindfulness that and giving advice to everyone and feeling that one has it all figured out. Itís that idea of judging others from the place of being a capital-B Buddhist. Itís the same kind of judging we do in everyday life, but since weíre Buddhists, we canít be judging, we see things as they are, we really get life, we really understand it. Itís a kind of arrogance, in other words. And again, like Eshu says, itís easy to just go around and around and around doing this. Iím guilty of both these types of practice, which arenít really practice, just selfishness disguised as practice. One of the reasons I appreciate Ango, and my practice partner, John, is that there are reminders everywhere that ground my sitting, that show each of us weíre just regular people sitting and staring at a wall. And thatís all we need be, all we are.

    Yet, struggling with practice in these ways is not unnecessary. It may actually be necessary. And I find that understanding such a thing can be an encouragement, a push to recommit.

    Anyway, I say all this as a little precursor to this story I wrote called ďThe Buddhist,Ē which you can read here on Grantaís website:

    The story is about a young white, Canadian Theravadin monk, and itís about struggling with practice (also, thereís a significant part of the story that was inspired by a story Jundo told us, many years ago; the story is transformed and changed and probably unrecognizable now, though maybe someone can spot it). Itís a long story and just a thing Iím sharing; maybe itíll be helpful to some at the, as Jundo might say, beginningless beginning of Ango.


  2. #2
    sat today

  3. #3
    Hi Alan,

    Sometimes it's very difficult not to engage in criticizing others. Other times it's even more difficult not to engage in that deceiving ego discourse constantly playing inside our heads.

    I think a big part of our practice is to be aware of that and let it all go, trying not to believe those stories and to understand that opinions are not reality. Opinions are just ourselves judging and commenting on those judgements.

    Ango and Jukai are a perfect chance to be aware of that. We can trip and fall down, but we can also learn how to get up again and learn from that.

    I am guilty of all the practices you wrote and sometimes I find it very difficult to let go of my own big ego. But then I sit and all goes away

    Thank you.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  4. #4
    Hi Alan. I look forward to reading your story ...late tonight when it is quiet.

    The know-it-all Buddhist setting the world straight runs up against the wall soon enough. In a way , having been around for so long there is a heard-it-all element. How many books have been digested? How many Dharma talks have been heard....different variation on the same thing over and over? How many times has sitting gone from a cramp-state to sudden release, just by being the cramp at-once. The one thing that is clear to me is that Samsara is Samsara, and it will never be tamed or mastered. I will never truly "have it together". There will always be "this much" off. With daily practice I can roll with it and have some terrific highlights along the way. When my friend Gord died several years ago a couple of friends and I sat with him at the hospital one last time then we said goodbye. I asked how he felt (he was late stage cancer and died that weekend) and he just got this huge grin with a sparkle in his eye..and said " I am a wreck". That was it. He sure was a wreck.

    Sat today
    Last edited by RichardH; 09-16-2015 at 09:54 PM.

  5. #5
    Thank You. I look forward to reading your article.
    Sat Today

  6. #6

    Good story. Thank you.

    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  7. #7
    Hello, everybody

    Thank you Alan for the story, I'll read it later.
    Thank you Daizan and Kyonin too for your wise comments.

    I can surely relate to what Alan says about slipping into lazy practice. It happens to me all of the time and it's quite a struggle against the ever-demanding ego, permanently unsatisfied. Like the ego is Mick Jagger constantly whispering "I can get no satisfaction"... and I try, and I try, and I try.

    Regarding the "having it all figured out" pose, fortunately when I feel the slightest temptation of assuming that attitude, or even just wanting to emanate some of the peace the practice sometimes brings me, another voice arises like Thom Yorke saying "I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo, what the hell I'm doing here?" and the tempation is gone.

    Sorry if I used poor analogies, I couldn't find a better way to explain myself.

    Gassho, Daiyo

    Sat Today

  8. #8
    Thank you, Alan, for posting this. I see a lot of myself in what you wrote. I'm sure even the great masters of old struggled with such things.

    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  9. #9
    You will struggle with practice until you learn to smile, relax and naturally ease into it. As dogen said "the joy and ease of just sitting"
    Many Zen people are way too serious.

    SAT today
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  10. #10
    Thank you Alan ; it's good to hear from you again



  11. #11
    Thanks for the responses everyone; it's encouraging to know that others slip into these forms of struggles from time to time, and of course, like Kyonin says, When we earnestly sit, with and as everything, it does all go away. And thanks for reading the story too.

    Hope you're all doing well.


    PS: Daizan, I like that moment you shared about your friend. Really relates to a brilliant thing Kokuu recently posted about illness.

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Redding California USA
    Thank you Alan. I enjoyed the story.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  13. #13
    Hi Alan

    I really enjoyed the story and it does remind me of a certain kind of Buddhist and Buddhism. I must admit I wanted to give him a bit of a slap and tell him to be kinder to his parents who were clearly suffering.

    Jon Kabat-Zinn once said something that has stuck with me. I can't remember the exact quote, which I think is in Wherever You Go, There You Are, but it runs something like - When I am a Buddhist, it causes many problems. When I am Buddha, it upsets no one. Attachment to that label and insisting that everyone fits around it seems to me to be the wrong way to go. As many people have said, the rakusu and kesa are signs that we are in service to others, not the opposite.


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