Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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Same sky different moon

December 11, 2011 by Jokai

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Same sky different moon

It is now almost three weeks since the end of the Fall Training Period. Long enough at Yokoji for it to become a distant memory, ungraspable like everything else. Three weeks is also long enough for the newness of Interim Training to fade away and the current schedule to take hold and become familiar.

This transition in training schedule often presents some fairly classic challenges. On the one hand it's refreshing to have more unstructured time. On the other hand, less zazen and dokusan and more work time places greater responsibility on each individual to guard and continue the quality of their own practice. This can be especially true of the two hosan (rest) days.

For me personally, I've been working with the impulse to move, particularly during my rest time. There has been a nagging intellectual doubt that maybe I don't have quite enough. That this isn't quite enough. I don't literally mean "move", like, move to... say Oklahoma (though come to think of it Hawaii would probably win out - no offence Oklahoma). But rather the impulse to move from the experience of my life in the present moment. Once I reach a point where everything is basically taken care of, what then? In some ways, it's easier for me to practice in the more intense training periods simply because I'm so very busy. I'm a part of a larger whole and my roles are obvious. Take away all the things I have to do immediately, and I'm left with the personal responsibility and choice as to how to manifest my life. Not such a bad problem to have I think, but I have great capacity to mess that up if I follow old impulses.  When I finally (fingers proverbially crossed, I'm typing) quit smoking several months ago, I read that the craving for a cigarette only lasts about 5 to 7 minutes max. That little statistic really helped me quit. I thought to myself, "I can endure this for 7 minutes". Recently, I've been applying this technique to my other impulses. Those thoughts that creep in and tempt me to choose another reality over this one. When I can sit still in those moments and just observe my patterns arise, then like the craving for nicotine, they tend to disappear without my engagement with them. Here's an example of a classic ho-hum Jokai monologue: "hmm...I'm bored. Got some work to do but nothing pressing....maybe I'll drive to Idyllwild and do some online work in the coffee shop....hmm...don't really feel like driving...".

At these times when I'm awake and aware to what's going on, I'm practicing with not feeding these thought trails, but rather asking "what's wrong with this?" Invariably, there is nothing wrong at all and I can disappear in the sunlight coming through the window and the warmth of the Practice House fire.

Speaking of fires, my closest insentient (to my knowledge at least) friend this Interim period is our awesome Study Hall fire - pictured above. It's been coooold lately and I truly appreciate arriving for pre-dawn zazen, grabbing a cup of coffee (favorite nickname: liquid samadhi) and kicking back for a while to warm the bones. There's something so ancient and comforting about making a fire. Throwing another log on and staring into those orange depths I feel one with my cro-magnon ancestors.

It is once again a truly beautiful day today. The sun continues to shine without my asking it to and wanting nothing in return. I want to express my gratitude for that and for this.


  • Mick dairyi Grethe:

    11 Dec 2011 15:21:42

    I have often fallen into The trap of musing how to be aware whilst daydreaming,especially if being aware of it brings me back to “this”. There are times when a little leisure time for the brain is distinctly attractive particularly when mindfulness seems to take so much energy. Duality and distraction. Maybe staring into the fire is the better option.
    Love the blog. More please

  • Doetsu:

    11 Dec 2011 15:35:06

    Jokai, I comented earlier in facebook but after reading this out loud to John this morning, something else you wrote resonated with me too. Being aware of thought patterns and “what’s wrong with this?” are nothing new, but sometimes it’s good to hear them again – especially when it’s really needed. Thanks.

    Hugs to you, my friend,
    Ilene Doetsu Van Gossen

  • jokai:

    18 Dec 2011 22:41:32

    thank you for the comments. I was just reflecting (sounds cooler than “thinking about” eh?) on the koan “the great way is not difficult,just avoid picking and choosing”. It’s important for me to see that daydreaming in itself is realization.

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