Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Coat Stand

When I'm preparing to sit zazen, I sit on the edge of the zafu and cross my legs so that I'm comfortable and stable. I relax my body to see if I start tilting one way or the other. If I do, I readjust my posture until I find stability and comfort.  Then I put my hands on my lap and form the mudra.

Once I've done that I push the crown of my head towards the ceiling to straighten my spine and imagine that my spine is like a coat stand, and the rest of my body is like fabric hanging from it. I focus my attention on the various parts of my body, releasing any tension I find. I start with my scalp, then my eye lids, cheeks, lips and chin. Then my neck, shoulders, arms and stomach. All of these things should hang like limp fabric from the coat stand that is my spine.

I like this little routine because it helps me to settle my mind as well by focusing on my body in a methodical way. As soon as I feel that it's time to start, I take a nice breath, adjust my vision so that I'm looking through the wall, not at it, and then I focus my mind on my breathing so as to let my thoughts waft away and peace enter.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A constant racket

Here's a great quote from Philip Glass which was sent around today on the Tricycle daily digest:

"The problem with listening, of course, is that we don't. There's too much noise going on in our heads, so we never hear anything. The inner conversation simply never stops. It can be our voice or whatever voices we want to supply, but it's a constant racket. In the same way we don't see, and in the same way we don't feel, we don't touch, we don't taste."

Friday, 5 October 2012

Ah Facebook!

One of the joys of Facebooking is the cool shit people keep posting on my wall.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Sitting in the cold

The temple gate and belfry in autumn rain.
Midday is still quite warm at this time of year in central Japan, but the temperature drops quite a lot in the evening through to early morning. When I go to the temple to sit in summer, I wear a light cotton samue with short, open arms to help keep me cool, if anything could. One of the challenges of sitting in summer is trying to ignore the beads of sweat running down my body, tickling my skin. But now autumn has come, and the mornings are refreshingly and comfortably cool.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

When we sit zazen, we face the wall, but, more importantly, we face the self.

Many of us find it difficult to understand what do to when we first come to zazen. Certainly I did. Understanding the posture was the easy bit, even if achieving it wasn't so easy. However, the most difficult bit was understanding what I should be doing in my head whilst sitting.

I came to understand that to sit zazen is to face the self, to observe the machinations of the mind, to be the observer. That's all. To be the observer. And by being the observer of the mind, that is, the thought processes, we are our real self, not the misunderstanding of self that we create through thinking. And what is the real self? It is that which is, while you are observing the though processes of your mind, and only you can truly know it, because only you can experience it. It is the balanced self, the wise self, the contented self, the self free from anxiety. It is the gateway to the dharma, and the dharma itself.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Not doing what's good for me again.

I haven't sat for two weeks. I've been chasing frothy bubbles in my mind again, avoiding doing what's good for me. I've squandered so much free time idling and procrastinating, and then beating myself up over it. But this is my cycle. I got into bed last night and the room was silent, as was the street outside, but the noise in my head was deafening. I'm committing myself to sit this evening. I'll report back honestly!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Friday, 3 February 2012

Brad Warner on Tricycle.

I like Brad Warner's writing. He's pretty down to earth, of my generation, and we have shared some interests at different times in our lives. I've just noticed that he has an article on Tricycle Magazine so I though I'd post a link for folks to follow along and check it out.
Brad has several books, of which I've read one and a half. If you like the article you might enjoy reading some of them. Hardcore Zen was is first, and the first I read. It was a fun read and very informative in terms of coming to understand more about zazen and Zen in general. Here's the link:


Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Heart Sutra and Fuekou.

After zazen every Sunday morning we go to the temple hondo to recite sutras. Each month has a new sutra from the Sotoshu standard sutra book. The Heart Sutra is the sutra we recite in January. After reciting the main sutra we also recite Fuekou (普回向), so I included it too. At the beginning you can hear some of the old folks taking a moment or two to get into time. It was 6am and just above freezing, so minds were not fully on the sutra until the head monk joined in to get everyone singing from the same hymn-sheet, so to speak.

In truth, I don't hold a lot of stead in the cultural forms, but this is the sangha I've joined, so I accept their ways.  

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The person you think you are.

Empty your mind of thoughts, and that what you think you are will disappear. That what you really are will be all that remains.