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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Renewing my Home Practice


Good gracious, has it really been a month since I've gone exploring into the wilds of Greater Boston zen? Say it isn't so!!

Truth is, I returned to my favorite zen spot, Open Circle Zen, only to find it partially submerged during a long, steady rain. We all laughed about it, of course, once the shock wore off, and then went about the task of cleaning up the puddles so that we might sit. We managed an hour of sitting and then noticed the puddles had returned anew. One lapped dangerously close to the doan's zabuton. "Zen on the edge," I quipped; oh, the hazards of a basement zendo!

So while a more earnest cleanup is in process, 'tis up to my own devices to experience another bit of Beantown Zen. Funny, then, that I should find myself inspired by a zen center in Nebraska: noticing the full moon falls on the 3oth this month, I decided to take advantage of the timing and experience my first Ryaku Fusatsu.

We never celebrated the full-moon ceremony at my training temple, but I've enjoyed reading bits about it from temples that do honor it, and I realized that as I've been feeling somewhat lazy about my practice discipline since becoming a mother, perhaps there is no time like the present to do something about it.

It turns out, I had 10 minutes while my son was in the bath with his dad to throw it together. Ah, the hazards of a practice whilst endeavoring to parent... One does what one can. So I made an offering of incense, made 3 bows, rang the bell, and set about renewing my vows as I had taken them at my tokudo, 5 years earlier. And wouldn't you know, just as I was vowing yet again not to "abuse the 3 Jewels", the bath ended and a wacky naked toddler ran into the bedroom and hugged me, drenching me with bathwater, and giggling away back to the towel he managed to evade moments before.

I laughed. Certainly not something you see at your average Very Serious Zen Temple.

And then, truth be told, I began to feel very guilty about the whole thing. This is not real zen, I thought to myself. I should be...

But then? Then I found this gem, right in my lap, written long ago by someone paying attention to my lineage-teacher, Kobunsama. Even so many years later, he spoke directly to me:

You cannot attach to zazen while you are not doing it. Do you understand? It seems that if you cannot do zazen it is alright. Don't do it. To enjoy what you are doing is the most important thing. Instead of looking a zazen with mournful eyes while washing the diapers, you enjoy what you are doing, and when the chance comes, you sit.

Often while we are sitting a call will come from someone asking for us to relate to them. When important things call you, this opportunity to sit is almost impossible to have. So you are deeply involved with others, and most of the time you don't regret not doing zazen because you are doing something else. Zazen doesn't draw you from what you are supposed to be doing; simply, you miss the opportunity to sit because there is so much emphasis on the importance of communication.

You often feel guilty when you take off from your daily activities to join sitting. You feel you are doing a personal thing, and at the same time you doubt if there is time to do it. The best way to live is to consider the people who relate with you in your day to day life and emphasize how they feel about your absence. Their tremendous kindness makes you able to join this sitting practice. Usually you don't think about your situation this deeply, since you have such an urgency to discover your true nature. On that level the people you are concerned with, the people who are concerned about you, let you go to come waste time here. And they literally say, "wasted time," when you come back with a shabby face!
Kobun Chino Otogawa, roshi, aspects of sitting meditation
So I will have to wait a little while longer for my baby boy to come to know his mama's been-too-long-at-sesshin face. In the meantime, a super-wet after-bath giggly-boy hug is the perfect final bell at the end of my practice. This bell rings continuously...


My home altar, ready for action. We've since moved it from the bedroom to the living room... and I'm glad to have it more a part of our every-day, rather than sequestered in the spot we hope we might get to use...

1 comment:

Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

I can't remember now where I found your blog, maybe in a link from another buddhist blog, but I've been reading for a month or so now.

This post really resonates with me, as I began my meditation practice (vipassana) six years ago, when my first child was a baby. I've definitely been learning how to balance formal practice with daily life, to bring practice into my life, to my make my life my practice.

Thank you for sharing.