March 25, 2012 by Jokai
One of the great gifts of a long period of residency at Yokoji, is the chance to experience formal zen training in many different states of being. Joy, anger, fatigue, frustration, boredom, happiness, sorrow, ad infinitum. The schedule is the schedule. The bell is struck three times and zazen begins. The bell is struck twice more and a period of zazen concludes. Of course, whole universes are born and collide in between! Or so it can seem.
We are now well into the Spring Training Period. During this time, whatever issues that have been lying beneath the surface of our lives tend to be brought into the light. It’s our choice how we examine and deal with them. The opportunities for practice are constantly made available. Like rough stones we are rubbed together and made smooth. It’s not an easy process. For myself, I still (and perhaps always will) play the mental game of “If I could just change this, then everything would be better.” I think that’s part of being human. It can be a very useful mechanism when used skillfully. But it’s important I think to not identify with and invest too closely with that desire. Every evening we chant “desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.” I have been working with that vow and of late I see my practice as refining my desire. Being clear about what it is I want. Examining the roots and then asking “does this conform with reality?” Mapping it out, seeing what’s real. As much as possible, abandoning desires that don’t measure up with life. The impulse to move away from life as it is in exchange for another imagined life is the elephant in my meditation hall. Living in a close community, our usual avenues of escape are diminished and we are skillfully forced into confronting the issues that have arisen, head-on. There’s a lot to be learned if we are willing to stretch out of our comfort zones.
Of course the dramas of life and our rich interactions with others can become an obsession like much anything else. I remind myself to take regular pause and just gaze up at the mountain peaks, letting this notion of self and other dissolve, or at Jupiter and Venus sharing the same patch of sky. Entire worlds living side by side in perfect imperfection.