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Thread: Finding the middle way

  1. #1

    Finding the middle way

    Up until recently i felt like kind of a zen burn out.This concept in my mind led me to be very harsh on myself.I was inspired once more by a friend i had met living at a temple two summers ago.I decided to go to Japan, because this is what i have always wanted to do.I have always talked myself out of following my heart and so i have been telling myself despite whatever consequences there are i need to Jump off this pole for once.I have arranged to train at a rinzai and soto temple for a minimum of a year.In the mean time i have been living a lot more disciplined lifestyle with this motivation...The only problem is i have noticed a rebirth of my tendency to cut myself off from everyone else..I know this is a problem in my home and will be a problem living in japan.This leads me to believe that i really don't need to drop everything but rather have the courage to practice in every moment.It Seems as if my practice feels "good" again, but in my mind something just doesnt seem right over all.I have been reading tons of texts,koans,and sutta's.These things have helped me alot...For a while i really disliked shikantaza i disliked what seemed like a vague nature that was charateristic to such practice and i really felt i needed a foundation, But this also seems to be an excuse.I'm sorry for the rant but where is the middle? I think this can be dangerous.

  2. #2

    Re: Finding the middle way

    I don't think, and I could be wrong (its happened once before) that if you cannot 'rant' about life and zazen and the middle path to your friends/sangha then who can you 'rant' to? And who better to confirm your direction of thought or practice, redirect thought or practice, than some of the clear and experienced practitioners on TreeLeaf (of which I am not one).

    I appreciated your post. I found it funny too.. because your subject is middle way, then you lead off with to 'hell with the consequences' and 'I'm jumping off this pole'.. I wish you the best of luck on going to Japan and training at a temple. I would caution you that seeking foreign and exotic places are not a solution in and of itself, because the solution in and of itself is right where you are whether its foreign, domestic, full of Buddhists or Hare Krishnas.. That said, I'm sure there's great instruction to be had in Japan.. That is to say, you should go to find good training and not 'to find yourself' in my opinion.. and the fact that you are worried about cutting yourself off from 'everyone else'; i.e. seeking isolation, then moving to Japan to live in a Temple may be of concern.. I have many times had the tendency to run from people and places because I was certain I would improve over there.. and over there always had a way of being here. So it resonates with me...

    I often get caught up in judging my practice, my person and efforts/performance. In so doing, its easy (to me) to feel burnt out or a lame practitioner or a poser or what have you.. and for me, to judge is to miss (completely) the practice. Stephanie wrote a few weeks ago (and I have been chewing on it like a starved heifer ever since) "We look to the world outside, not to the thinking that makes that world seem a certain way. We believe our thoughts and don't look to the thinker." I found that very succinct and so for me, my practice is not to indulge the thoughts as much as to look at the thinker. It is then that the world and the practice transforms for me.. sometimes.. : P

    I look forward to reading for wiser responses to your post and thus thank you for it.

    _/_ Nate

  3. #3

    Re: Finding the middle way

    It sounds like you are searching for something. The danger is in thinking there is something to search for, and that you could find it anywhere but "right here, right now". The depth of your practice doesn't care about your geographic location, be it a Rinzai monastery in Japan, at the top of mount Uluru in Australia, or in your spare room. Is is possible that your previous dislike of shikantaza was the ego self saying "whoa! You're not paying attention to me!"? Shikantaza might "seem" vague only because there is no goal. In fact, shikantaza zazen is the whole manifestation of our Way, the physical expression of the Eight Fold Path and all the koans, suttras and texts you have been reading. The dropping of the self will meet resistance, this is normal and expected, but that is the "goaless goal" of our practice: Dropping the delusions and attachments we have, realizing the dharma of life itself, and reflecting this realization in our every activity. If you are searching, you will likely not find what you are looking for, because it's there already.

  4. #4

    Re: Finding the middle way

    Oh, we have such wise folks in this Sangha, and I would take to heart all that Chris and Nate say above.

    That said, monastic practice is an old and solid road for those called in that direction. I hope you encounter your "middle" there, one that is always with you (where is not the "middle"?). Please stay in touch with all of us during your time there, write with the ups and downs of your practice there. Marvelous.

    Also, do come to visit when around Tsukuba.

    One thing I would say is that, in the old days, monks would leave family and friends behind for their new life. Now, well, I would recommend that you do not be so quick to cut off connections, and damage relationships, even while undergoing training. See if you can "leave home" in ways that still leave you a home to come back to.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: Finding the middle way

    I wish I could say I wasn't jealous, but I am

    Best of luck to you. But as others have said, don't search too desperately for yourself; it's been with you the whole time!

    Taylor (Myoken)

  6. #6

    Re: Finding the middle way

    You will come full circle but unless you do it you won't really see for yourself that nothing has been missing from day one. Japan is the worst place to practice Zen these days. A few temples provide a serious yet very macho form of training and that's about it. There is Antaiji and you may give it a go. I am not in Japan for Zen practice but because I feel at home here, love it all with its great things and flaws.

    You may question yourself: why do I want to go? Is it a fantasy? Am I deluding myself about what I want? Will I take everything with me ( my problems and issues)? What stops me to work here and now?

    And yes please, keep intouch with the ones you are leaving behind if you really decide to go.



  7. #7

    Re: Finding the middle way

    I would very very much like to recommend two books to you too, about the Zen temple experience in Japan (both on our suggested book list) ...


    • Thank You and Ok, An American Zen Failure in Japan, David Chadwick (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, INSIGHTFUL AND HILARIOUS!)

    • Two Shores of Zen: An American Monk’s Japan by Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler. (a fascinating diary of a fellow's overly idealistic attempt to find the "real Zen" in Japan. However, ahead of this book, I highly recommend the above very funny book, which is much the same story ... but with more a needed sense of humor: Thank You and Okay: An American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick]

    Get them both today, Trevor.

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: Finding the middle way

    Oh and if I may offer one more word from a fellow 19-20 something:

    Don't lose yourself trying to find yourself. Sometimes it's ok to have fun, it's practice too! Prevents burn-outs like ourselves from actually burning out.

    Someone going sledding at 12 AM and sitting right afterwards

  9. #9

    Re: Finding the middle way

    Man, I've got nothing useful to add but this is a fascinating thread. I agree, Trevor, keep us posted if you go. And do read Chadwick's book; it really is hilarious. :mrgreen:



  10. #10

    Re: Finding the middle way

    Thank you all.I have had the strangest of experiences lately.Last night i felt as if i was melting down/I turned to Kodo sawaki and tree leaf for support and i awoke with understanding and determination.The two temples i have arranged to stay at are antaiji and sogenji.I appreciate this support very much.As i judged myself yesterday i realized the value of a sangha today.

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