August 14, 2010 by Yugen Lakey
Jonen and Jishin in the kitchen
Saturday. Time to relax. Perhaps a bit of shopping, a walk in the park, dinner with friends. Not here. Saturday is a regular day at Yokoji - dawn zazen (seated meditation) followed by work practice, followed by evening zazen. Our weekend falls on the less traditional days of Monday and Tuesday.
At the moment we are in an interim period, which means a 5:10am wakeup. Today there was no wake up bell as we have a guest group staying here. Apparently not everyone appreciates being woken up by a series of drum, bell and wooden block hits. Personally, I kind of like it. The jikido (a Japanese term for the temple time keeper) rises before everyone else and makes coffee and hot water for tea, lights the candles on the altars and then (normally) sounds the wake-up bell. Currently the jikido is Jim Prall, one of the Yokoji residents. The position normally changes hands on a weekly or fortnightly basis, so everyone has an opportunity to train, but as we are low on residents right now, Jim has gallantly stepped up week after week to do it. Thank you Jim!
After two 35 minute periods of zazen with kinhin (walking meditation) in between, we do the morning service. Service involves giving thanks to those that came before us - Buddhist ancestors, familial ancestors, the previous inhabitants of the valley in which we live. We chant and we bow and this can be off-putting to a lot of people, but at the core, it is an act of gratitude and harmony.
Craig Zenkei Courtright - volunteer for the day.
The guest group are stirring by this time and some are doing yoga in the zendo (the main meditation hall which we let guest groups use for their activities). The group is led by Beth and Hugh, two of our members, and it is called the Mindful Way retreat. The focus is on meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices to reduce stress and increase a sense of well-being. Jishin, the tenzo (a Zen term for head cook), prepares breakfast and all the residents partake in the clean up afterwards. This flows in to a work meeting where the days tasks are brought up and distributed amongst the residents and any volunteers. Today we have Craig Zenkei Courtright and Bruce Jonen Ingalls helping. We run a volunteer scheme whereby people can help out, and in return, they earn credits to redeem against future retreats. With 4 residents, 2 volunteers and 19 in the group, Jishin and Jonen busied themselves in the kitchen. Rakusan and myself (Yugen) parried the never ending flow of paper work in the office, Zenkei plunged in to some deep cleaning work and Jim worked on a staircase to a converted loft space at Tenshin Roshi's house. More on this project later...
We break at breakfast, lunch and dinner, taking roughly an hour to ninety minutes for each. However, with guest groups here, we often work through these to take care of meal serving, dish washing etc. It can be exhausting, but also rewarding when a group clearly loves the place and has a memorable weekend. We host the groups as a way of generating income. It is, in fact, our main source - way above donations, membership and training income. So in a nutshell, at this religious non-profit organization, we work in order to keep the Center afloat. We do this as we love doing it and want to keep the Center going for more and more people to come and have life-changing experiences. Or at least a really good weekend!