Today our Sangha had a cookout at a member’s house.  It was a fantastic afternoon for it.  Couldn’t have had better weather.  Most of the people from our Wednesday night group were there, about a dozen or so.  Also a group came from The Temple which is about an hour away.  With the group was our Zen Master, who I had not yet met.

i have been wondering for a week how our introduction would go.  i have never interacted much with a Zen Master, and once again i let my preconceived notions get in my way.  After watching him talk with other members of the Sangha, i went and introduced myself to him.  “Hi, my name is Tyson.” and i shook his hand and looked him in the eye like my father taught me.  i waited for him to introduce himself and after a brief and what for me was an uncomfortable pause, he smiled at me and said, “Where can I get some ice cream?”  After another pause, i pointed to the table where the ice cream was.

i attended my first Zen “retreat” yesterday.  i put retreat in quotation marks because it was only a one day Intro to Zen retreat, but hey it was 7 hours so i’m counting it.

Evidently the one day retreats aren’t important enough for the Zen Master to attend himself.  We had two Oshos leading it, one i know from my weekly sittings at the local Zen Center.

There were 14 participants, which i thought was pretty good for a Saturday during Memorial Day Weekend.  A good mix of people.  Well, a good mix of white people.  i’ve noticed not a lot of minorities practice Zen (at least around here).  We all introduced ourselves and gave a little bit of our background and what brought us to Zen.  There was an Episcopal teacher and her son.  i thought that was pretty cool.  There were at least 3 teachers.  There was a married couple that showed up late because they got lost (i’m sure the husband was driving).

After the greetings, the Oshos gave a very short introduction and history of Zen, which i thought was ironic since the retreat was titled “Introduction to Zen”.  Then they gave instructions on how to sit properly, which almost everyone ignored.  Most people sat “Indian” style–i’m referring to Native Americans, not the actual originators of Zen meditation– even after repeated attempts from one of the Oshos to get them to change.  They went over walking meditation and a few other points.  i was surprised they did not discuss chanting since it is a large part of our weekly sittings.  My guess is that they think that might turn some people off.

Next came a question and answer session.  Most of the questions were what you would expect in a setting like this.  i asked a couple of technical questions about the mudra we use and the lineage of the main teacher.  Nobody in this group asked any questions where everyone rolls their eyes and says in their heads, “Oh, THIS is the one”.

Pretty much the rest of the day was meditating/walking meditation, with a lunch break in the middle.  The lunch was vegetarian and very good.  Gassho to the cook. i did notice a few people really loaded their plates up and i thought they might regret that later in the day by either their stomach digesting loudly or getting really sleepy mid-afternoon.  And sure enough, two guys took naps during our 30 minute exercise/walking mediation period later.

We did have an individual interview with one of the Oshos.  i really didn’t have any pressing questions to ask.  During our walking meditation there were tons of ants on the stones around the temple.  i had done my best all day not to trample any, although i am sure i failed multiple times.  So i asked Osho where my right to do walking meditation stopped and the right for the ants to live and go about their day began.  i guess this was not the usual type of question she had been getting all day because her eyes got bigger and she said, “Wow.”  She told me (and i’m paraphrasing and have a terrible memory so i’m sure her answer was much better than what i am relaying) that life is suffering.  Even pulling vegetables up from the root to eat is killing and that as humans we have to cause suffering sometimes to survive.  All we can do is try to cause the least amount possible.  She then asked me what i hoped to get out of practicing Zen.  i told her i wanted to get rid of my ego and not to be a huge pain in the ass to my fellow beings.  She told me that humans need an ego to survive and that basically ordinary mind is the way.  All in all it was a good first interview for me.  Not really what i expected, but i am trying to learn to not expect anything.

My body held up pretty well until the last mediation period when my knees got really sore.  But i did much better than i thought i would.  A lot of people were squirming, fidgeting, or moving around all day, but it was especially noticeable during the last period.

The Oshos had another, shorter, question and answer period.  i think everyone was too exhausted to ask too many questions.  It amazes me that just sitting still can be so tiring.  One person did ask about the very large bells in the meditation hall and said she would love to hear them so one of the Oshos did a chant.  Everyone was pretty impressed.

The day concluded with a plug of books and t-shirts written by the Zen Master and an invitation to come back.  Class dismissed.

It was a good day.  However, i thought after a full day of meditation i would feel different leaving than when i had arrived.  i didn’t.  There i go letting my expectations get in my way again.  But a good sign was that as soon as i got back home i looked up full weekend retreats and plan to do it again.

So last night i set my meditation timer for 20 minutes.  That’s my normal evening mediation time.  i know you are not supposed to think zazen is good or bad, but i had a good session.  My mind was pretty calm and quiet the whole 20 minutes.  It was nice for a change.  It was so good i didn’t want to get of the zafu but i did.  I got on the internet but 10 minutes later i got back on the zafu and did another 10 minutes of pretty solid zazen.  i went to bed pretty satisfied and still with a fairly calm mind.

Fast forward 7 hours to this morning.  The minute i woke up,  my mind was racing.  Thoughts all over the place.  i started my morning zazen–10 minutes–and couldn’t calm my mind.  i tried shikantaza, following my breath, a koan and a mantra.  Nothing worked.

i was curious as to why i could have such a good session the night before and the next morning it was like it didn’t happen.  Wish me luck tonight!

A fairly newly appointed Osho gave a talk at our sitting the other night.  She is a very pleasant woman but has never been overly talkative before.  In her talk the other night she began by, “This is tough for me because I’m very introverted…”  So am i.  And i’ve read about several other Zen masters/teachers being introverts too.  Is there something about Zen that draws introverts to it?  Are we more comfortable looking within and not so comfortable looking outside ourselves like other religions require?  Is zazen tailor made for us?

Wow it was a nice day today.  Heck, it’s been a nice week.  i DID NOT want to go to my Zen group today.  Driving there was torture.  i wanted to go to the local arboretum and walk–which can be meditation when i let it.  The whole drive there i was telling myself that it was going to be a waste of time because there was no way i could concentrate.  The whole time i would be thinking, “i would rather be outside in the warm sunshine!”  But i went anyway.  As i entered the Zendo, i took a deep breath and one last look around outside into what i knew would be my prison for the next hour and a half.  

Once we started our chanting though my mind kicked into “meditation mode” (i look forward to the day that i can be present at all times, not just while sitting).  Everything clicked and i was “just sitting” with no desires or attachments.  It was one of my best periods yet.  The time went by without me noticing and my head is still pretty clear, even after a trip to the gym.

i am reading The Three Pillars Of Zen by Philip Kapleau.  It was one of the first books on Zen i read over 15 years ago.  Very dry book, but full of information.  i respect Kapleau because he was one of the few “major Roshis” with no real controversies.

The more i read about the “major Roshis” in America, the more i get discouraged about true enlightenment.  i just read an article the other day that Robert Aitken admitted he knew about his teacher’s many affairs with students, but kept quiet “for the greater good of Zen in the West.”  Many other teachers have had affairs with students, had/have alcohol problems, are attached to money and fame, etc.  What does that say about dharma transmission and enlightenment if the teachers act this way?

Anyone know of any consistently good podcasts about Zen i can download?

Great few days of meditation since my group Wednesday.  i know i’m not supposed to judge them as good or bad, but so what.  

The hot girl wasn’t there this week.  i am convinced it’s because my stomach was making so much noise last week.

i was on my way to my Zen group this evening and saw a neighbor with her 4 year old daughter out walking.  The girl saw me and ran up to give me a hug.  i talked to them for a few minutes and then said i had to go.  The little girl asked me where i was going.  i said, “i am going to meet some other people and try to be quiet and sit still for an hour, do you want to go with me?”  She was quiet for about two seconds, cocked her head, and said, “that really doesn’t sound like much fun.  You should come play dolls with me, that would me MUCH more fun!”  i can’t say that i disagree with her.

i used to love Facebook.  i was a “power-user”.  But every since i have been sitting regularly i have enjoyed Facebook less and less.  i get aggravated by the petty posts and huge egos begging for attention.  i used to be one of those people.  i know i shouldn’t judge, and i hope in time my practice gets me to the point that i don’t.  But until then i will probably be spending less and less time on social media.