Saturday, October 22, 2011

On The Cushion

It was a beautiful day out there today, but apart from half an hour on the roof after lunch, I was just gazing at it longingly out of the window, and hoping that tomorrow will be equally warm. We had a big one-day sitting, which meant a long day of preparation yesterday, and a long day of sitting today. In the end, the preparations were as smooth as they could be, even with all the vagaries of our new booking system, and I was about an hour ahead of my usual schedule getting all the pieces of paper together; even the printers behaved.
As usual, I did not get to settle into the sitting until this afternoon. We had had some debate about changing the timing of Saturday mornings, and the Abbot finally conceded that we could try the shorter service today that we usually do on Monday. As it happened, with seventy-odd people to get in and out of the Buddha Hall and give soji assignments to - and most importantly, to feed in the zendo - by the time we got out of breakfast, it wasn't even worth me trying to take my robes off and get to the bathroom. I went up to my room, gulped some coffee, and went straight back to the zendo to make sure everyone could find a place for 9:25 zazen, and then took a break once the period had started, which always makes me feel just a little guilty.
During the first period in the afternoon I was verging on catatonic, as I have been during most afternoon sittings this week - probably due to not getting to bed early enough. Once I got through that though, I enjoyed the feeling of some habitual stuff getting blunted, and other ways of being getting sharpened, allowing my spine to unfurl and my shoulders release, feeling my ribs come into balance and moving my neck just ever so to give a more spacious feeling. Then at the last moment I had to step in as kokyo for evening service, and found that my voice was drier and more wobbly than I would have liked.
We had dinner in the zendo, which is rare enough that I was having to think back to Tassajara to remember some of the forms; many other people were probably experiencing it for the first time. Luckily, some attrition in the numbers through the day meant that we weren't as tightly packed as we had been for the other two meals.
Sitting in the evening is also an uncommon treat here, even if the first period after dinner always seems to go on a little too long, and wrapping up the day with the Refuges in Pali is always lovely, again evoking memories of Tassajara where every day ends that way.
At the end I even got some thank-you notes and verbal thank-yous; enough to send me off to bed happy.


Shonen said...

I'm feeling tired just reading that. If it makes you feel any better, one day sittings used to be on a Sunday and consisted of all 3 meals + tea in the zendo and ended around 9pm. So, residents ended up not having a day off for 2 weeks and the Sat afternoon before the sitting was spent doing laundry & other chores so that you were ready for work on Monday.

I'm curious when the switch to ending the one day sitting at dinner started and have you now reversed that again so that there is always going to be post dinner sitting or is this just an experiment?

Shundo said...

Hi Shonen,

The standard idea is that within practice period, the sitting will go until 9pm, and outside pracitce period, until dinner - and the one that starts the practice period usually just has the opening ceremony after dinner.
I can imagine that having sittings on Sunday would be pretty unpopular. I only get one Saturday off this month, but my Sundays are free, thankfully.