Saturday, April 30, 2011

Celestial Movement

Somehow it seems easier to get out of bed when it looks like this out of the window:

I enjoyed watching the light fill the zendo for both periods of zazen, a warm yellowy light at 6:30 as the sun was inching up behind the buildings, and a full white light at 9:25. It is a beautiful warm day here today.

With a residents' meeting, and thus no oryoki, the schedule was a little more relaxed today as well. Grace Schireson came to give the lecture, and the chattering consensus afterwards was that it was a refreshing and enlivening talk. It brought forward a couple of issues for me which I will try to write about later.
Another highlight of the morning for me was giving posture adjustments during the second period. I do these almost every Saturday now, and while I wouldn't claim to be getting any better at them, I appreciate having the opportunity to lay hands on mostly the same people week after week. I have come to know who is likely to respond easily to a particular touch or pressure, and who is stiffer and a little more unyielding, though they too might relax into uprightness with the right encouragement. What often happens is that I look around the room before I sit down again afterwards, and find that people are leaning the way they were before I adjusted them; it's what their bodies are used to doing. I just hope that everyone gets to experience moments, as I do myself very occasionally, where the body is in just the right posture to allow the energy of the present to flow unimpeded.

Friday, April 29, 2011


These past two weeks have been uncommonly quiet on the ino front, which I have been quite happy about; I know it is going to get busy again once we get into practice period. We have, however, done three leaving ceremonies in the past few weeks, part of our endless cycle of change and transition.
Today, the last of these was for Anna, who is moving to Green Gulch, after time at Tassajara and in Europe. Now that the rain and grey clouds seem to have moved on, the zendo is starting to get light at kinhin, and by the end of second period, the sun is gleaming through the Laguna Street windows, much as it did in these photos (I was a little shocked as I looked back to find this entry, that it was almost a year ago already), so the light in the zendo during today's ceremony was quite beautiful.
Previously we had marked Linda's move to Tassajara, where she gets to be reunited with Greg, of course. Linda and I sat tangaryo together at Tassajara, and then worked together for three practice periods, first in the kitchen, then on the doanryo, then I was head doan when she became ino there. Anna has been the director for most of the time I have been on senior staff here in the city, and thus a central figure in the practice life of the building. They were also both shuso when I was down at Tassajara a few years ago, and these are pictures from their shuso ceremony days:

Anna with Blanche

Linda with Linda Ruth
Christina has not held such exalted positions - yet - but she was a strong and much-loved presence in the building during her time here, and, like Anna and Linda, conspicuous for the great energy of her efforts; I would often remind her that it was time for a meal and that she should take a break. Here she is, typically, working on getting an arrangement just right:

And even though she has left, or, as we say, 'returned to the marketplace with gift-bestowing hands',  she is still coming back to help with the flowers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


There has been a bit of a profusion of gifts coming in my direction recently. Since I want to adhere to realising "the emptiness of the three wheels, giver, receiver and gift", as we say before we open our oryoki bowls, I am not going to start coming over all Sally Fields; nevertheless, it feels comforting to have the sense that people feel helped by what I do.
I have been given four books by four different people, two of whom were the authors, Dennis and Camille; two kinds of marmalade; a statue, from two Dutch guys who showed up a little bit out of the blue for the recent sesshin, and whose efforts I really appreciated; a friendship bracelet; a gift voucher which is intended to be spent on bicycle-related stuff; and this beautiful package of coffee, which I am almost reluctant to unwrap...

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Bad Workman

I had been looking forward to Saturday's Zen and Neuroscience talk with Paul and Philippe Goldin. There had been a discussion at that morning's breakfast table with one of the participants in the workshop who had come the night before and attended the morning program, and who was excited to see how people in the psychological disciplines had really begun to research and discuss these issues; my feeling is that the Buddhists have known about them all along, but it is still fascinating to see it quantified.
Unfortunately, our technology did not fully support us in our efforts. Laura and I had set up the dining room sound system with the digital recorder and the camera on Friday afternoon and done a successful test run; even more excitingly, Charlie, who is going to be installing our new sound systems, had managed to get his hands on a new wireless lapel mic, and brought it over on Friday evening. I got it out of the box on Saturday after breakfast, and got it working, and the sound system rigged up again, before going off to be doshi for 9:25 zazen.
As before, we were improvising with the forms somewhat, so I had to make sure that at least the shoten and Paul had the same idea about what was going to happen, and then I turned the mics up very carefully. We had sound over the speakers, but not, alas, on the Livestream. It turned out that the record feed from the sound system was not working. I was running around for a while trying to set up an alternative way of doing it, but that didn't work either, so in the end we just ran the Livestream from the camera's internal microphone, as we had for Lou's funeral, and had no high quality recording of the event, and audio for only the second half of the video (scroll through to 19'15").
If you want to know more about how it was, there is always last year's version of the talk, and you can see Philippe talking about the topics with visuals here, and here. And should you want to hear more of Paul, I have just finished uploading two sesshins' worth of talks from Tassajara, which should make Greg happy - he is always encouraging me to get these online quickly, but when confronted by seven talks, or in this case, fifteen, I need to be able to block out a lot of time to get them uploaded, which does not often happen in the ino's world. It ended up taking more than a whole day's work to do all of these, especially as I had to go through and edit out chunks that were a little too intimate for the web, as well as all the usual processes, which I have described before. Even though it can get a little tedious and eye-glazing, I know that these are greatly valued by people who cannot get here, much as when I used to be struggling to stay awake doing live broadcasts at midnight at the BBC, but telling myself that there were millions of people in Burma who were listening avidly to what I was mixing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

We celebrated Earth Day in the courtyard this morning in the gentle first light and a fresh spring breeze, sunshine briefly illuminating the upper floors of the building. The sounds of birds and traffic mingled around us - I saw hummingbirds dancing overhead, and at one moment looked up to see a seagull gliding by, looking down at us. During the ceremony, we chanted the Loving Kindness Meditation, the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo for protecting life, and the four Bodhisattva Vows, as well as a series of homages:

Teaching and living the way of awareness,
In the very midst of suffering and confusion,
Shakyamuni Buddha, to whom we bow in gratitude.

Seed of awakening in children, sprouts and all beings,
Maitreya, the Buddha to be born, to whom we bow in gratitude.

Working mindfully and joyfully for the sake of all beings,
Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of great action, to whom we bow in gratitude.

Cutting through ignorance, awakening our hearts and minds
Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of great wisdom, to whom we bow in gratitude.

Responding to suffering, willingly serving beings in countless ways,
Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of great compassion,
To whom we bow in gratitude.

Showing the way, fearlessly and compassionately,
The stream of all ancestral plant, animal and human teachers,
To whom we bow in gratitude.

Deepening beyond all ideas and concepts of mind,
The Prajna Paramita Great Wisdom Sutra, to whom we bow in gratitude.

On the altar we had some beautiful pots of starts, and a tiny pear tree, which had been grafted at a workshop at Green Gulch. Marcia had also made a basket full of seed balls, from Green Gulch clay, poppy and bachelor's buttons, for us to take away and scatter around in the city.
Paul said, as he entered, "What day is not Earth Day?"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Study Hall - Shobogenzo

From 'All-Inclusive Study', 'Henzan': "All-inclusive study means 'If the top of a stone is large, the bottom is large. If the top of the stone is small, the bottom is small'. Without changing the top of a stone, you allow the stone to be large or to be small".

The ino, less of a blur this time, tries to figure out if the stone is large or small. Photo courtesy of Marcia Lieberman

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stillness and Motion

This week's Sangha-e newsletter featured Ren's photos of the weekend jukai. Ren's photo streams offer a really valuable view of Zen Center ceremonies and other happenings, not least because they offer a glimpse of the backstage activities as well as the main events. I was particularly taken with this picture, which is definitely the best picture anyone has taken of me in a while. And I thought I was moving slowly:

"Talking to the Ino (the Blur)" courtesy of Ren.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Growing Old Gracefully

It is often said that Buddhist practice is a way of dealing with our fear of death, as are most religions I suppose, and this has certainly been a big factor for me over the years. Alongside that, though, one thing that struck me in my early days of living at Zen Center was how it seemed to provide wonderful tools for growing old.
Both my grandfathers died when I was very young; I have one memory of my father's father, lying in his sick bed in the very old house they lived in. I was probably five; it was his birthday and 'my' gift to him, supplied no doubt by my mother, was a red tie, and with a five year old's precocity I remember thinking, hopefully not aloud, why does he need a tie if he is in bed all the time? My grandmothers were more durable, and offered great and differing examples to me as I was growing up. To simplify greatly, one was quite pious and always helping other people - even when she was in assisted living after a bout of cancer in her eighties, she was taking care of the 'old people' around her - and the other was more of a worldly socialiser, certainly an atheist, and perhaps a bit of a hedonist until she was reduced by a stroke.
Blanche has for many years been the grandmother of City Center, and I have always been impressed and inspired by her devotion to practice and to living in community - and of course, until recently, her devotion to Lou. During sesshin I was thinking of writing something about the great efforts she was making to be in her leadership role to help Lien in her shuso training, enduring the long hours of sitting despite the physical and mental strains of grief. Alongside her, as well, were Michael and Vicki, each dealing with physical difficulties, but persisting in their whole-hearted practice, and offering a teaching just by their continued generous presence.
Blanche had asked me recently if she could be the kokyo for a Full Moon Ceremony, and I was happy to have her take this on. Just before we started yesterday, when I went upstairs to see if all were ready, she was worrying that she might not have enough energy to do it all, but once we were in the Buddha Hall, her voice came sailing out across the room, strong and rich, and her energy filled the assembly. Once again she was showing by example how to make your best effort on each moment, as she loves to quote Suzuki Roshi as saying.
By way of a counterpoint, this morning as we gathered in the kitchen for the breakfast bow-in, the solemnity of the circle was broken by three-year-old P racing through the door on his blue and red tricycle. There was great laughter at seeing his whole-hearted activity.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Taking the Precepts

On Saturday we sent a newly minted batch of Buddha's children out into the world with a jukai ceremony, and just for good measure, we took the precepts again today in the Full Moon Ceremony.
I had felt a little distracted on Saturday morning: there was another zagu-related mishap, with me turning to the altar at the beginning of morning service and realising with a sinking feeling that my left arm did not feel as heavy as it should with a zagu draped over it; I had simply not picked it up when I got up at the end of zazen, so I made my way out of the Buddha Hall and back to the zendo to retrieve it while everyone else was doing the nine prostrations.
Christina gave a wonderful talk, one of those where I think that even though there is really nothing one can say about the dharma, she managed to say everything one could say.
We did the rehearsal for the jukai on Friday night, which is unusual, and took me away from mingling at our volunteer appreciation event (that was fine, as I usually have a limited tolerance for mingling), and while that made Friday a long day, it had the benefit of allowing a little more time and space on Saturday, once we had got through the morning program and lunch, to have a cup of coffee, print up the programs for the ceremony, make corrections to the script, make the flower arrangements, check in with the chidens and so on, which meant I felt quite relaxed when the ceremony got underway. I think everyone enjoyed themselves, and it was quite emotional in places. Love was definitely in the air, as I hope some of the photos show.

Karissa receives her rakusu

Simbwala receives her rakusu

The whole crowd,  blue period

Christina with Zenju Earthlyn and Simbwala

Christina with Tressa

Christina with Karissa

Christina with Mary

Cory, Karissa and Christina

Friday, April 15, 2011

Study Hall - Shobogenzo

More Dogen - you know it's good for you:

"Shakyamuni Buddha said to Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, 'Know that those who receive, chant, memorize, study and copy this Lotus Sutra immediately see Shakyamuni Buddha, just like hearing the sutra from the Buddha's own mouth'...
Shakyamuni Buddha has been Shakyamuni Buddha since he saw Shakyamuni Buddha. This being so, the voices from his tongue cover the billion worlds. What place in mountains and oceans is not buddha scripture? Thus only those who copy the sutra see Shakyamuni Buddha.
The buddha mouth is always open throughout myriad years. What moments are not sutras? Thus only those who accept the sutra  see Shakyamuni Buddha" -  Seeing The Buddha', 'Kembutsu'.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Study Hall - Shobogenzo

Dogen is definitely helping focus my mind this week. From 'Ten Directions', 'Jippo':

"[Changsha continued] 'The entire world of the ten directions is the radiant light of the self'. *
 The self means nostrils before the birth of your parents. The nostrils, being by accident in the hand of the self, are called the entire world of the ten directions. Yet, the self is right here, actualizing the fundamental point, opening the hall and seeing the Buddha...
Although calling is easy and responding is difficult, when you are called, you turn your head. When you turn your head, what use can it be? Still you turn your head toward the person who called.
A meal waits for you to eat it. A robe waits for you to wear it. What a pity you don't take it while it wants you to. I have already given you thirty blows".

* we have already covered this phrase.


My friend Colin at Austin Zen Center rang up a few weeks ago in need of chip incense and charcoal, and of course we had a bit of a natter about things at the same time, and with Renee's help, we got what he needed, and he sent over a cheque which arrived at the beginning of sesshin, and the two boxes had been sitting in my office for a couple of weeks until yesterday when I finally had the time and energy to find a box to put them in, and paper to wrap the box in, and to go down to the post office and get it off in the mail, in a crowd of people mostly wanting to get their tax forms safely delivered.
I ended up being doshi for afternoon zazen yesterday, after getting back from the post office, and while my sitting has been a little more concentrated than it was earlier in the week, I still don't feel completely in the groove. During service, there being a small crowd, I didn't feel that we were flowing well together, and the incensor and kobako needed to be straightened on the altar, but after I had done that, I had a moment of feeling properly focused in my role. And then, I was just about to do the exit bows at the end of service when I realised that I had neglected to pick up my zagu after the three prostrations: I had started thinking, during the prostrations, of how I was going to claim back for the postage I had paid for and whether the accounting department could offset that cost against what Colin had paid by cheque...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Study Hall - Shobogenzo

We were talking about seasonal allergies at breakfast, and when I excused myself to go and read Dogen, I commented, 'at least reading about plum blossoms doesn't give you allergies'. 'Plum Blossoms', 'Baika', is mostly a tribute to his teacher Rujing, and Dogen quotes several of his poems:

"Tiantong's first phrase of midwinter:
Old plum tree bent and gnarled
all at once opens one blossom, two blossoms,
three, four, five blossoms, uncountable blossoms,
not proud of purity,
not proud of fragrance;
spreading, becoming spring,
blowing over grass and trees,
balding the head of a patch-robed monk.
Whirling, quickly changing into wild wind, stormy rain,
falling, snow over all the earth.
The old plum tree is boundless.
A hard cold rubs the nostrils".

"Rujing said:

The original face is beyond birth and death.
Spring in plum blossoms enters into a painting.

When you paint spring, do not paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots - just paint spring. To paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots is to paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots. It is not yet painting spring.
It is not that spring cannot be painted, but aside from Rujing, there is no one in India or China who has painted spring. He alone was a sharp-pointed brush that painted spring".

Dogen also comments, "Rujing did not easily allow monks to join his monastery. He would say, 'Those who are accustomed to a lax way-seeking mind cannot stay in this place'. He would chase them out and say, 'What can we do with those who have not yet realized original self? Such dogs stir people up. They should not be permitted to join the monastery". I think if we were as strict here, we would have a pretty small assembly.

Back On Seat

There has been a transitional kind of feeling this week, as we get back into the schedule. It is a strange lurch to go straight from the rigours of sesshin to the spaciousness of interim. We had the Tassajara crowd in last week as well, so there was a vacationing air in the building, but now they are all back at work period, and we adjust to the normal routine again.
I noticed how rusty we were sounding in service on Monday and Tuesday, and how I was not feeling fully connected to everything. This morning we had a pretty full zendo for first period, and then at kinhin it was like someone pulled the plug out - people streamed out, and we went from maybe having fifty people in the room to having eighteen for kinhin, and not many more for second period. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of the kokyo and fukudo, we had a stronger service today.
As I write, the blue sky is covered with clouds and rain starts to fall. Maybe spring is not yet fully established.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Study Hall - Shobogenzo

It's been a couple of weeks since I picked up Dogen, so it was nice to have a short fascicle, 'Rules for Zazen', 'Zazen Gi', to ease me back in. It is a re-tread of the central part of the 'Fukanzazengi',  and as is the case with things I know well, it is the subtle differences in translation that I find interesting:
"Set aside all involvements and let the myriad things rest. Zazen is not thinking of good, not thinking of bad. It is not conscious endeavor. It is not introspection...
Zazen is not learning to do concentration. It is the dharma gate of great ease and joy. It is undivided practice-realization".
Good words to bear in mid as we settle back on our cushions after interim.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Buddha's Birthday

The sun shone for Buddha's Birthday this year, which was a blessing, as all the parasols and stuff look much better in the sunshine than they did last year, when I was, frankly, feeling a bit cold and grey myself and not in much of a mood to celebrate. This year I was slightly better rested and more festive feeling.
One advantage of the ceremony coming at the end of interim is that I had plenty of time this morning to make sure most of the necessary things were set out; then, when I went off to the zendo for 9:25 zazen, in my newly washed robes, which I then proceeded to sweat through of course, a number of other people were ready to take care of all the other details for the setting up - I was grateful to have so many helping hands.
People seemed to enjoy it a lot, and I even did myself. We are almost a victim of our own success, in that we were a little crowded for the circumambulations, and we may have to rethink the way we use the space. Enough of that though, I did manage to bring my camera along in my sleeve, and grab some pictures from time to time, and I think they tell the story better than I am going to:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pancakes For Breakfast

One thing that is always true around Zen Center is that if you have done something once, unless you make an almighty cock-up of it, someone will ask you to do it again. At Tassajara, at the beginning of every practice period, former doans are drafted in to ring bells, be kokyo and soku, until the new batch can be trained up. It is a nice way to relive things you used to enjoy, and if you didn't enjoy them in the first place, there is the consolation that it is only temporary.
Romy the fukaten has been asking me for some time to show her how to make pancakes. It is a hard thing to schedule when I am in the zendo every morning, so interim is the ideal time. I wouldn't call myself much of an expert at this - I only did it once when I was in the kitchen at Tassajara - but as tenzo I probably did it half a dozen times, and then have showed other people how to do it. And it really isn't rocket science either. The main skill involved is getting all the other elements of breakfast taken care of so that once you fire up the grill, you can just focus on flipping. I think the essentials were transmitted this morning; I started off, and then left Romy to it, and we had a couple of hotel pans of tasty pancakes by seven fifteen, which, of course, people were excited to eat.
Now, at the risk of returning to find things not done for tomorrow, I am going to take off on my bike for another ride in the sunshine.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Great Chiden Shortage

I knew that having Buddha's Birthday on Saturday would have an impact on my efforts to have a quiet interim week. The ceremony form sheets always need checking over to make sure they are clear and accurate, as well as the notes for the chiden; the flower chidens need to know to get extra flowers at the market tomorrow; parasols need to be dug out of one of the many closets, stocks of balloons and crepe paper verified - I hand most of this stuff on to the work leader, who does not have so much help himself this week. I went out and bought the cake for the altar this afternoon, which does not really qualify as a chore, as it involves walking down to Church Street, and, as it happened, bumping into a pregnant former resident of Zen Center.
The head chiden had informed me weeks ago that she was going to be away this weekend, so I had lined up her predecessor to take on the role of supervising the set-up in the park on Saturday, only for him to tell me this morning that his grandmother had died, and he might have to fly off to her funeral this weekend...I may have to come up with another plan to get the altar in place, though as I remember it, most of the work is getting everything over there to begin with.
I read through the ceremonial dedication, and there was a phrase that struck me as a little infelicitous. Naturally I turned to the Gyoji Kihan to see what it had to say about the matter. It tells me that we should be chanting the "Verse of Bathing Buddha (chant in drawn-out voice, without any melody)", though I don't see the text anywhere. The eko ends:

In more than three hundred assemblies, the rain of dharma moistened and bathed him from afar.
For more than two thousand years, the wind of merit has howled and continued to blow.
We humbly pray that the light emitted from the hair between Buddha's eyebrows shall benefit countless beings, and that his meritorious acts shall profit countless beings.

I was also reminded in the Gyoji Kihan that April 1st is the day when the braziers are to be shut down: "Leave no fires for heating. In sangha hall, from this day on head coverings are not to be worn when engaged in ritual procedures and folded hands should be bare".
Right now we do have the heating on, as the wind that is howling around the city today has come all the way down from Alaska, according to the forecasts at least, and it feels pretty chilly after our warm sunshine. I postponed my planned bike ride with the optimism that it will be warmer and less blowy tomorrow, and that I will not have to spend the day worrying about the shortage of chidens.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Tenken Report

Once a month the ino is supposed to present the tenken report, detailing people's attendance or otherwise for the morning schedule, at the Practice Committee. Today is the day for the March report, and as happened last month, my intention to update the report every week did not survive the activities of the past few weeks. When I am busy, I prioritise what needs to be done soonest, and the tenken report has less of a deadline than just about everything else I do. It is also my intention to post the dharma talks online weekly, but right now I have three sesshins' worth of talks to put up...
Another reason it is easy to defer this task (like I am doing right now by writing this - I can call it a brain break if not a screen break) is that it is somewhat monotonous data entry (a predecessor delegated this to an assistant for that very reason): I look through the sheets for each day, filled out by the kokyo, check against the tenken book where people write their reasons for not being in the zendo or at service, and enter things into a spreadsheet according to a number of codes. Strangely, we don't have a code for sleeping in or being exhausted, which is the main excuse round these parts.
The tenken book is an interesting lens through which to view life at Zen Center. It lays open on a table outside my office, next to the quote from Dogen I have printed out, and is thus available for anyone to peruse, though it is also said that you should not go looking through to see what other people are up to. You get to see who has insomnia, who is sick most often, who needs the most rest. Occasionally there are more individual excuses. Highlights this month include someone who missed service because they were "overwhelmed by services" (I checked in with that person after reading that, and was assured it was a one-off). Another person was "hungover from one beer - it won't happen again" (zen students are very cheap dates on the whole). Someone else missed oryoki due to a "crisis with set" (perhaps the set was overwhelmed by oryoki). There was one person "freestyle dancing and working out" instead of being at morning service (overwhelmed by too much immovable sitting, maybe), which made a contrast with "overslept and depressed" a few lines later (overwhelmed by just about everything it seems).
Still, this month's offerings have a long way to go to catch up with my two favourites from Tassajara (people have been known to collect tenken excuses, just as Genine made a poem out of work meeting announcements) : the first was "chased by bats", the second "total rebellion of the organism on a cellular level". The person who wrote the latter did not make it to the end of the practice period.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What I Did On My Day Off

For at least forty five weeks in the year, I am in the zendo six mornings a week, and out on my bike the other, so when interim rolls round I am usually ready for a break, especially coming after a sesshin, and a month when days off were pretty hard to come by.
But first there was another visit to Green Gulch for the Coming of Age group yesterday. It was a fine morning, and I had plenty of post-sesshin energy, and joy at being out and about again, and I was also feeling quite mellow around the boys, who were their usual boisterous selves, though once again I appreciated the conversation we had around the precepts towards the end.
There was also the matter of the monthly Suzuki Roshi memorials, which I knew would be sparsely attended. It turned out that I was doshi for both last night's and this morning's ceremonies, which I hadn't expected, and which I don't really feel senior enough to do, but faute de mieux...
I enjoyed doing them, especially as I had noticed being a little sad not to have the opportunities to be doshi during sesshin, and did my best to honour the formality of the occasions. One thing I did notice was that the statue we have in the kaisando, which is not universally loved - I have heard it said more than once that none of the commemorative artwork we have around the building really captures his spirit, mostly being too solemn and not catching the twinkling eye - is much more effective when you are standing in front of it for a few minutes: there is a way the eyes focus on you that I hadn't expected.
That done, and the weather being fine, I was itching to go out and ride, and I had all the fun I could possibly ask for, warm weather, no wind, quiet roads, wildflowers, birds, seals, as well as much evidence of rain damage on the roads. It felt like spring, and I can still feel the sun on my face. It was nice to have an unstructured afternoon, and to attend to some of the accumulated piles of things in my room.
I'll throw in a couple of photos to prove that I am still waking up pretty early, and that I am enjoying rediscovering the manual controls on my camera:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What I Did During My Sesshin

I shocked a couple of new residents at the post Shuso Ceremony dinner by telling them I had had a good sesshin - I didn't run out of chocolate. You ate chocolate? The ino broke the shingi? Well that's the way it is.
I don't really approve of taking photographs during sesshin, though I do that quite often as well. For all that sesshin mind tends to being to the fore the kind of attentiveness to detail that a photographer is always aiming for, it also seems like discursive mind in action - oh, that would make a good picture, must capture that, when I would prefer to be saying, oh, that's beautiful, and then let it go. That said, I did take some photos during sesshin, of the view out of my window as the days went by. Any resemblance to my states of mind may or may not be co-incidental.
Day one - morning
Day one - evening
Day two - evening
Day three - evening
Day four - morning
Day five - morning
Day six - morning
Day six - end of day
Day seven - morning
Day seven - evening
As you can see, and as locals will attest, it got pretty nice and sunny in the middle, and warmed up somewhat. I would have happily taken last week's wet weather this week, and had this heat next week when I will get some time off, but it doesn't always work like that, does it?

Then there is this self-portrait I took on the only morning I went back to my room during soji:

Disclaimer: this is not really me and it was not really like this.
The ceremony with Lien was as a Shuso Ceremony should be, fully open-hearted. I hadn't taken my camera into the Buddha Hall as I wanted to be properly ceremonial, but then after we got underway, Blanche leaned over to me and said, someone has to take the picture of the shuso receiving the staff, or she can't be officially registered (with the Sotoshu, who keep records of this kind of thing). So I nipped out to get my camera, which I had nearby for the post-ceremony pictures. On first glance through, though, this is the one I like the most - Lien getting a hug from Vicki right after the ceremony:

I expect I will write more about sesshin soon, but I am feeling ready for bed, and I have to be at Green Gulch early in the morning.