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Thread: Zen, Zazen and Work/Business. Questions about incorporating practice into our work.

  1. #1

    Zen, Zazen and Work/Business. Questions about incorporating practice into our work.

    Hello all,

    2020 is still fresh and it would be nice to instill some better habits, especially around Zen practice ! During Ango, a big part of my 'challenge' was work. As Jundo mentioned, this was my Ango! I am hoping, that with some wisdom and more practice I can fully engage with my tasks and duties and learn to be fully present with what i am doing.

    Work looks different for all of us and each of us has different capacities at which we 'work'.

    I am hoping that this thread will help myself and other Sangha members learn how to integrate their practice with their work.

    Some of you have been practicing Zen a long time so it would be great to get your suggestions and advice ! We can support one another on this thread and share what has worked for us and tips/advice.

    1. How can we use our Zen practice in our working lives?
    2. Which practices have worked for you?
    3. How do you engage with Samu?

    Thank you all in advance and I hope this thread helps many broaden and deepen their practice.

    Gassho,

    Ippo

    SatToday

  2. #2
    Interesting topic. Since I'm just starting my practice I'm very interested to see this discussion unfold.

    I work for a large multi-national corporation. I do not sit in an office, I'm either traveling to visit with customers or in a home office. My interactions with co-workers are mainly via email, instant message, and audio or video conferencing. A big advantage I have is the ability to take a few minutes to reflect when I start to feel anger, frustration, etc. So I try to apply Respect, Acceptance, and Compassion before I respond.

    However, the biggest difference so far is the focus. Now what I'm doing is the most important thing at that time. Instead of listening to a conference call and reading or responding to email at the same time. I now give 100% of my attention to the speaker and then later 100% to the email.

  3. #3
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    I start each day with Zazen which helps set a decent platform for the rest of the day.
    I'm legally the full-time carer of my partner who has MS so my 'work' hours and duties are variable but generally I'm at 'work' 24/7 such is the unpredictable nature of MS symptoms. For the privilege of watching the woman I love deteriorate before my eyes I get to live below the poverty line on disability. "Social Security" ROFL!! Not a great career move so I wouldn't recommend it but hey, you can't help who you fall in love with haha.
    However, what I try to do to incorporate my Buddhist learnings into my 'work' day is employ a lot of internal dialogues reminding me of a particular Precept or even approaching various tasks as Samu practice with the recital of a Samu Gatha. This works a treat for me until someone or something really pisses me off then it's a case of trying a bit of Insta-Zazen to reset things and start again. Some days require no resetting but most do and that's ok because my partner deserves the best of me and my Buddhist practice is bringing that to the fore.
    Not sure if this is helpful but it's going ok for us.
    Gassho
    Onka
    stlah
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  4. #4
    Thank you Ippo for this thread.
    I work as a nurse practitioner on a isolated little island. There are no doctors or emergency services, just me. So my job title is a nurse, but I end up having all kinds of roles, social worker, carer, policeman, ambulance man, secular priest (that's my interpretation of just listening to folks troubles).
    Incorporating and integrating my zen practice with my work has been a major challenge for me as I can be sitting down on my zafu and 10 mins in my pager goes off. I try to just get up and go, but have times when it is really irritating and I wonder if I really have any time to call my own when I can do what I want....like just sit. In times past I used to struggle with this a lot, and thought I cant really be a buddhist, I cannot dedicate or guarantee time to sit or attend important ceremonies etc.
    Last year I withdrew from my Jukai for these very reasons. This year, to be honest, the demands of work and my family have been even greater. However in discussion with Kotei and Jundo I came to realise that this was indeed my Ango, my Jukai. Once I let go of expectations I had of myself and just sat, studied or sewed when I could it felt like everything settled into place.
    So now, I feel my zen practice underpins my work and life generally. Everything can be samu if I allow it to be. I still get frustrated, tired , scared and upset but underneath that is the safety net that zazen brings to me and hopefully I can manifest the precepts on a day to day basis.
    This year I have completed Jukai and the feelings I have had following Sunday's ceremony do feel like a new beginning.
    Now all I have to do is live the life I aspire to and meet the precepts to the very best of my ability.

    Shouldn't be a problem

    Gassho

    Tenrai

    SAT/LAH

  5. #5
    I teach Chinese students online -- so my practice is less about incorporating my practice in my work, and more about incorporating my practice in my personal life (much greater challenge for me). I have recently been approved to teach upper level students, so I've been adjusting to that change as well.

    I sit early in the morning, before dawn -- generally between 4 am and 5:30am. Then I teach. Later I tutor adults sometimes, and take care of my family, and all kinds of things. I can't explain what I do every day because it changes daily to adapt to what is going on that day. I "go where I'm needed" -- and sometimes I need to "sit more" and recharge. Also, sometimes I need to "drop everything and respond" and sitting has to wait until later.

    Also, as Tenrai noted, my "always chaotic" life has always knocked me out of Jukai- until this season. Jundo, Kokuu, Jakuden, Shinshi, and others all reinforced to me that what I thought was 'interference' was in fact ANGO -- my life is my Temple and my practice, every day. If it hadn't been for the encouragement, reinforcement, and compassion of the priests here -- well, they're amazing

    My work is the "easy" part for me because working with eastern cultures -- mostly Chinese families -- is part of my daily life. Occasionally I deal with angry parents/families (usually has nothing to do with me), but for the most part I really love my work, and really enjoy spending time with the families and the kids, and I learn a lot from them as well -- I probably learn much more from them than they do from me.

    My practice gets tested the most in the rest of my life. Thus, I need to maintain my practice every day.

    For this reason, with the occasion of Jukai, until roughly March (DST), I have made changes to my schedule, and I expect this will be an ongoing adjustment.

    gassho
    Meian (kim)
    st lh
    Last edited by allwhowander; 01-14-2020 at 01:21 PM.
    Not all who wander are lost. (Tolkien)
    迷安 - Mei An - Wandering At Rest

  6. #6
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    I forgot to say that chapter 13 of Aitken's book probably sums things up as nice as anything anyone else says.
    A really rough paraphrase as interpreted by me would be:
    We've just taken the Bodhisattva vows. We've signed up to serve others but serving others doesn't just mean serving our Priest's or our Buddhist Sangha but to serve all living things. No matter what you do for wage enslavement (oops I mean paid employment) you can reframe it in terms of being in the service of others - thus effectively Samu practice.
    There are much wiser heads than me around here so I'm happy to defer stuff to them but this is how I see things.
    Gassho
    Onka
    stlah and got fleeced $500 for a vet visit SMH!

    Edit: As someone who studied as a vet nurse in a very small practice I'm aware of the enormous workload and unseen stuff that veterinarians and practice owners put into a practice. Even vet nurses do so much more in such settings than the public can ever understand. I think comrade Jakuden below underplayed the amount of work and costs involved in running a practice so I apologise for my comment without context about being fleeced by a vet but leave it here to take ownership.
    Last edited by Onka; 02-04-2020 at 08:05 PM.
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  7. #7
    Hi everyone,

    Nice responses from Drew, Onka, Tenrai, and Meian.

    It sounds like we are all on the same page! I think, for me, like many of you, engaging FULLY in ONE thing at a time is ideal. Being fully present and arriving at my fullest for a task/activity is what I am working towards. By default, the other option is a busier mind, not letting go and forgetting about ideas, time, boundaries.

    Interestingly, Jundo's suggestion about full engagement, arriving fully, etc. are also key strategies/techniques that are taught by high performance and focus experts.

    'Flow' is a great concept first conceptualized years ago:

    a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one's sense of time.

    So we sit Zazen, fully there dropping all judgments and just sitting. It sounds like, we can do the same for working!

    I have been practicing this more lately, and have noticed Zazen creeping more and more into my life. Often times I'm meditating, without meditating.

    I make a stronger commitment to practice this moving forward.

    Thank you for your thoughts and support so far. You all have very interesting things to say.

    I hope I can support and encourage you as much as you have done for me. Let's practice!

    Gassho,

    Ippo

    SatToday

  8. #8
    Hello Everyone,

    I have been reading more of Aitken and I thought this was relevant to our thread. I hope this can add some value to the discussion for you .

    The self that is autonomous and also one with all things is the self that is forgotten, not the self that is somehow eliminated. How do you forget the self? In an act—in a task. You don’t forget yourself by trying to forget yourself. When you are absorbed in your reading, the words appear in your mind as your own thoughts. When you are absorbed in Mu, then Mu breathes Mu, and the fragrance of incense is sitting there on your cushions. The sound of trees in the wind walks about in kinhin between periods of zazen. The bark of the dog prostrates itself before the altar. Yet these are simply the acts of a Stephen or a Linda.....The task is the act: facing Mu, fixing the roof, drying the cup, or pursuing an idea. When you are lost in the act, the cup dries itself, the hammer swings of itself, the idea is all consuming; and as to Mu, at bedtime he or she stretches out horizontally. The Christian parallel to the Zen teaching of forgetting the self may be found in the doctrine of obedience.


    This, I felt was a nice way to look at how deep our practice can go, should go, even when working. I hope you find encouragement from this.

    With Metta,

    Gassho,

    Ippo

    SatToday

  9. #9
    As far as work goes I have found that being able to focus on one thing at a time gets far more done. There is less stress about getting things done quickly rather than well, I dont feel as overwhelmed. Being able to take tasks in pieces rather than having to do it all at once has helped and keeps me from feeling drained by the end of the day or week, which means more done in the long run. Being mindful of each task has made them more filling. When I have to work outside i take a few seconds to breathe and look at the sky or trees before starting the work and even a task like sweeping becomes a meditation of its own.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah

  10. #10
    Thank you for the thread Ippo!

    As all distinctions drop away in this practice, perhaps the biggest transformation is a blurring of the boundary between "life" and "work." I wanted to be a veterinarian from childhood, so I can't imagine living life any other way, paying daily tribute to the fascinating bond between Humans and animals.

    That being said, having to put basic comforts aside constantly over the day in order to respond to the needs of others, whether it be patients, clients, or staff, requires something besides the inner drive to do medicine and interact with animals. It means being completely there for the person that rushes in with a critically ill pet even though there is a lobby full of people waiting; staying late evenings and weekends after 12-hour workdays to make sure business matters are adequately attended to, so that the workplace can support the team members and their families; holding bladders and ignoring hunger pangs to fit in unscheduled procedures or be there for folks that have issues to discuss.

    Expecting others to value the service we provide, and understand that we charge fees that we need to in order to exist, is a recipe for burnout (see: Onka's reference to being "fleeced" by a veterinarian above). Many people call this "compassion fatigue," but in my mind that burnout stems from looking outside ourselves for praise and value. Practice has helped me model for my employees the satisfaction that acting in accord with the Universe brings. We may take in far less materially than we might if we fixed cars, but the reward of our bodhisattva work is intrinsic, if we forget our separation from all the beings we touch in a day. Dropping judgemental thinking, directed both toward co-workers (see the other current post on difficult colleagues!) and clients is such a huge relief of suffering; modeling the dropping of discriminatory thinking is teaching the Dharma. And of course that allows us to bring our Why, our need to help the non-human beings, into focus.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  11. #11
    Yes, thank you Ippo for this thread.

    I work as a transactional lawyer in a commercial environment meaning that while I don't attend court I am negotiating contracts all day and this tends to be fairly combatitive.

    There are two main areas of my zen practice which I try to apply in particular. The first is to remember my humanity and the humanity of the person on the other side of the negotiations. I try to remember that they are just a person trying to get through the day and pay the bills. If they are rude or confrontational, which they frequently are, I try to stay mindful of the fact they are suffering just as I am. I look at this as an application of no-self. In a similar manner I try not to engage with the thoughts that can arise in my own mind so they don't lead to me shouting a string of expletives in the office as I might have done a while back. As Jakuden mentioned above, I try to drop the discriminatory thinking that previously would have had me accusing the people on the other side of a deal and even my own colleagues of all being idiots and instead act with compassion.

    The second element is that when I am stuck with a heavy workload of drafting to complete, I try to stay mindful of my task and not engage with the thoughts that might be telling me to go browse reddit and put the task off to tomorrow.

    I guess the TLDR is compassion and mindfulness.

    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah

  12. #12
    Hello Jakuden and Heiso.

    Thank you both so much for your responses and insight. It's beautiful to see the depth of your practice and your engagement with your work.

    I found both your posts insightful and compelling. It's nice to see how the Dharma is working for us......

    Thank you, Thank you, thank you.

    I think your words will be very useful of many who read them

    P.S. Jakuden, now I appreciate your affinity for Sekishi's puppy!

    Deep bows,

    Ippo

    SatToday

  13. #13
    Hi Ippo,

    Great questions. To me work is as sacred as sitting zazen because both are manifestations of Buddhahood!

    1. How can we use our Zen practice in our working lives?
    I don't think I use Zen. It's more like I am part of Zen, a tiny particle if you will. That said, when I work I just work, keeping mind and body where they should be: present.

    It's funny but the more you sit, remaining the present comes natural. Also, I don't engage in mindless discussions or engage in provocations.

    All do, work included begin with Gratitude, which turns into Compassion. This means that I like to believe all I do serves a higher purpose other than just earn money, all I do is for the benefit of all sentient beings. And it all turns to Dana Paramita.

    2. Which practices have worked for you?
    I guess all I do is practice. So everything is circular and affects everything. That's why I just sit and work. Or sit zazen. Or sit and eat. Now that I think of it, it's all very simple.


    3. How do you engage with Samu?
    With gratitude that I have the opportunity to work. I have my hands, my mind, my full capabilities, so I can earn a living.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  14. #14
    Hi Ippo and sangha

    Without discriminating between people's answers, as there is always much unsaid in threads, my approach to practice is probably along the line's of what Kyonin spoke of. I try not to have a distinction between me and zen, between home and work, between periods of practice and non-practice. If I am breathing I am practising, and since I cannot 'not' practice while breathing (alive), then the distinction drops away. Similarly with 'zen-ness', if I am neither zen nor not-zen, then I just am, untroubled by trying to be something.

    Nonetheless, I remain human, and so I do apply effort to bring the precepts to life in my day and my household and workplace. I try to allow the precepts to manifest in any given situation simply with the tools of non-attachment and non-reactivity. I try to make samu a deliberate activity in that I will bow - whether to the weeds in the garden or to the washing in the basket - and perform that activity with no attachment to completion or outcome. I consider samu to be as Dogen said in genjokoan - All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization.

    I am a work in progress, but with nothing lacking from the beginning, and no I to work on

    Laughs, Gasshos, and....

    Tokan

    Sat Lah

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    Hi Ippo,

    Great questions. To me work is as sacred as sitting zazen because both are manifestations of Buddhahood!

    1. How can we use our Zen practice in our working lives?
    I don't think I use Zen. It's more like I am part of Zen, a tiny particle if you will. That said, when I work I just work, keeping mind and body where they should be: present.

    It's funny but the more you sit, remaining the present comes natural. Also, I don't engage in mindless discussions or engage in provocations.

    All do, work included begin with Gratitude, which turns into Compassion. This means that I like to believe all I do serves a higher purpose other than just earn money, all I do is for the benefit of all sentient beings. And it all turns to Dana Paramita.

    2. Which practices have worked for you?
    I guess all I do is practice. So everything is circular and affects everything. That's why I just sit and work. Or sit zazen. Or sit and eat. Now that I think of it, it's all very simple.


    3. How do you engage with Samu?
    With gratitude that I have the opportunity to work. I have my hands, my mind, my full capabilities, so I can earn a living.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hi Kyonin,

    Thank you so much for this very engaged response. I found it very insightful.

    This has been a wonderful thread and truly helped me "bridge" and incorporate practice into more. I am seeing less of the lines now.... I will keep it up.

    Thank you to all, I am sure this will help others for years to come .

    Also, thank you for your insight Tokan, it was great. Nice to see you at Zazenkai last week!

    Deep Bows,

    Ippo

    SatToday

  16. #16


    Tokan, satlah

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