Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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March 25, 2012 by Jokai

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

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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.


  • Doetsu:

    27 Mar 2012 16:31:28

    Jokai, I enjoyed reading your blog entry. You have many parallels to my own experience. I recently read a different translation of our chant, “desires are inexhaustible” with “desires” translated instead into “delusions”. To vow to put an end to delusions sort of ‘nails us to the spot’ doesn’t it? Your advice on mapping out what we really want and what lines up with reality is much appreciated. And it’s comforting to know that I am not the only one with “elephants” in the meditation hall.

    Ilene Doetsu Van Gossen

  • Jokai:

    27 Mar 2012 17:48:51

    thank you for your kind words and insight doestsu

  • Koan:

    28 Mar 2012 19:14:40

    Jokai, you are a star. You write so beautifully it is a joy to read your blog. I too loved the analogy with the elephant except in my case there would be a marauding herd!
    Thank you.

  • jokai:

    08 Apr 2012 00:18:22

    Thank you dear Koan.
    Lots of love from The Colonies

  • Tom Kiso Brown:

    07 May 2012 21:41:34

    Hi Jokai, I have been reading some of your blogs and got to thinking about how long ago it was that I met you for the 1st time on your first sesshin at the Chet centre in Crosby with Dave Shoji Scott and Tenshin Roshi. How you wanted to leave after 3 or 4 days, tired and confused yet excited and determined. How you slowly came to reason that after getting past the half way point it would be stupid to leave early. I too was struggling at the time but because I was trying to convince you that to stay would be the right thing, that also meant I was setting myself up to stay, although I seem to recall that I did leave to spend one night at home. I saw you once again after that and you told me that you had been to spend time with Tenshin Roshi and again you were asking questions of yourself. I now read these beautiful bloggs and watch the instructional video you made and smile when I recall those long ago conversations. I’m sure you have worked hard and died many times on the cussion. I’m also sure that your still asking questions of yourself and will probably die many more times on that cussion. Let me know if you’r going to Crosby next year and I’ll try to get there to see you.
    Take care.

  • Tom Kiso Brown:

    08 May 2012 21:25:02


  • jokai:

    11 May 2012 04:33:28

    Dear Kiso,
    Wonderful to hear your words. Thank you for writing. I have often looked back on those first couple of Crosby Sesshins. I clearly remember a couple of our conversations. You definitely helped put me at my ease when everything seemed strange. I’m glad we toughed it out. I hope to return to the UK for Sesshin at some point soon and it would be great to see you. Take good care. Be well and happy. Jokai

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