Friday, March 18, 2011

Gratitude

I confess that during my early years at Zen Center, hearing my colleagues gush, as they would from time to time, (puts on exaggerated American accent, elongating the 'so') "Oh, I'm just so grateful for this practice", always set my teeth on edge, triggering my inbred English cynicism about Americans and their brash insincerity. Even if that was not a quality I typically found in people around Zen Center.
My first attempt at a cure for this was towards the end of my first practice period at Tassajara, one evening when zazen seemed to be particularly endless. I thought about the person sitting next to me, whom I had been sitting next to for hours every day over the previous three months, which was enough to go through many tides of irritation and je-m'en-foutisme, and think, "well, he's not so bad really; I do appreciate the way he ....". I don't remember what it was exactly I appreciated, but anyway I turned my attention to the person on the other side of him, and thought about something I appreciated this person for, and so on until I had gone round the whole zendo in my mind and thought of at least one reason to be grateful for each person who was there.
Fast forward the best part of ten years, and I find that I can always think of reasons to be grateful for this practice, though I haven't quite mastered the art of saying so in that American accent. All of which is a roundabout way of coming to express my ongoing gratitude to the people who keep the zendo running every day, especially those people who don't live in the building and are doing so entirely of their own volition.
The other Thursday I came down to afternoon zazen and saw Roger, Dennis and Robert sitting on the bench by the door having a natter, and I realised, these three guys are the cornerstones of the afternoon doanryo. Each of them take on several jobs a week, and, as chronicled over the past year, most recently here, are also imbued with the practice spirit that has them saying yes to requests for more help. I thought of trying to get a picture of the three of them together, and it has taken a few weeks to make it happen, but yesterday, with our new lighter afternoons, I dragged them all outside for some shots. So, thank you gentlemen, I am so grateful for your practice; we couldn't do it without you.

14 comments:

Dennis said...

At the risk of sounding ironic about your English cynicism (which came as a surprise to me) and Americans... I'm genuinely grateful to participate in the doanryo. It just adds juice to the sitting, even when, as with doorwatch, it tends to interfere with it slightly. Also, the picture proves you only need one shot!
And while every once in a while my brain decides that it's niiither rather than neether in the Heart sutra under the influence of a certain English accent...I like that confusion, I guess.

Shundo said...

Hi Dennis - the cynicism is somewhat buried these days, though it does resurface occasionally. and that was the last of about six shots I took, but I definitely didn't need 'just one more'.

Mike said...

One of the things I appreciate most about our zendo and my practice are the ordinary (well we are all ordinary in our own way) - or should I say the "non ordained" folks who keep the zendo running, grounds tended, building painted, zafu sewn, toilet paper and kleenex stocked, as well as perform ceremonial duties. While we have a priest and a few residents, it is clear that that everyone's practice can't be maintained without everyone's help. I like that fact that we all come together without pretense (like I am a resident and you are not, etc.) and practice our practice on this spinning ball plunging through the universe. And I am grateful to you, Shundo, for your practice, even if you are miles away. I'd like to come meet you in person someday.

BTW - I am about to start watching Milan San Remo on the live stream!

Shundo said...

A man after my own heart, Mike - I was late for our residents' meeting this morning as I was glued to the screen for the last 25k of that race. It was pretty gripping, and quite a turn of events. Thank you for the rest of your comment too. Please do come and visit.

ksellman said...

That photo warms my heart - there's so much wonderful in it - thanks for posting! :-)

Shundo said...

Watch out Karissa, or I'll be taking your photo too...

Chris Burnham said...

Heh. That drove me crazy when I was up there! Like half the room would say "niither" and the other half "neether" and I'm used to a differently-worded version that avoids that. I could really stand to take inspiration from Dennis.

Shundo said...

I refer you to an earlier post:
http://theinosblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/you-say-neither.html

Chris Burnham said...

Ah so you're the culprit! Thanks for the smile :-) Maybe some day they'll switch to the version my sangha uses and it won't be an issue...

As a postscript, in reference to the post newer than this, I am an American who can differentiate to some degree types of English accent, and I do remember yours sounding crisp, or proper-er, and when I read you thought folks might find it posh you hit the nail on the head. And in that even earlier post you referred me to, in attempting to use the IPA characters (which didn't come out on my browser incidentally) even your typing ended up coming of kinda posh. I guess you're Posh Bodhisattva.

Gassho :-)

Shundo said...

Hi Chris, I always thought of posh as a word that has much more weight and baggage attached to it where I grew up than it does here. Nobody in this country has ever called me posh, that I remember, and definitely not as an insult.

Chris Burnham said...

I certainly did not mean it as an insult, and I do apologize for the irresponsible usage.

Shundo said...

No, I meant that in England people would; here it is just an observation, and an uncommon one as well.

Sierra said...

really enjoyed this post on gratitude! Maybe we can have a reading about it at YUZ and how to cultivate it? I think when we become so familiar with things like a job/place/partner etc. its easy to conjure faults and think about what's lacking. often remembering when I didn't have something, makes me see how much I have now. poetry, photography, presence are great too.it would be nice to hear others perspectives. Thanks for the post!

Shundo said...

Thanks Sierra. If I come across something good, we can definitely bring it up. See you Monday.