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.