Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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Different Hats

June 07, 2012 by Jokai

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Different Hats

Spring Training period is already a distant memory. One delusion I like to practice in training period is that when Interim training period comes along, I will have lots of time to do everything. Like writing a blog for instance! Of course though the daily schedule is different, life at Yokoji continues to present as many challenges as it ever has. I’m thankful for that. A gift I gave myself recently is to give up the idea of a day off. There are certainly days that I rest more than others, but there are truly no days off. This summer I am very lucky in that my son Dylan is staying here at the Center. I’m grateful to Tenshin Roshi, the residents and Sangha at large in supporting this. Adjusting to a necessarily unpredictable schedule has brought up plenty of opportunities to awaken from my ideas of how and what something should look like. That word “should” has caused me a lot of trouble down the years. Or to rephrase that, the way I regard how life “should” be causes trouble when it doesn’t jive with how things really are. Saying we have to leave in two minutes to walk to the Buddha Hall doesn’t translate well to an eight year old, I have found. Finding the flow of our days involves looking at things from a different perspective than my well-honed art of clock driven minutiae. I am finding that I have a whole new level of respect for those of you that maintain a lay practice in the midst of family, work and having to do a quick dash around Trader Joes before picking up the kids.

One of the great gifts of living and training at a full time Zen training center is that one pretty much knows what one is going to be doing from one minute to the next. Practicing alongside my son, not only do I not know what is coming next, there is a good chance I may be ten minutes late for it. And I may have forgotten to bring a healthy snack along. Of course, I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything. As in all areas of my life, it’s the defined narrow sense of who I am and how things should be that needs to be surrendered, reality examined and accorded with. More and more I’m interested in improving my relationship to the world, noticing the ways in which I become a little stuck, the ways in which I create “two” and entering in afresh, seeing what is needed. The dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.


  • Doetsu:

    08 Jun 2012 00:06:11

    Children have a way of waking you up, both literally and metaphorically. Being open to what happens next, while having no idea just what WILL happen next, is one of the first lessons a parent learns. Manjushri should be depicted as a mischievous child, with his sword cutting through all our delusions about how much we are in control.

    You are a good father, Jokai. Dylan is a fortunate little boy.

    Ilene Doetsu Van Gossen

  • Andrew Taido Jones:

    08 Jun 2012 03:57:08

    O, Jah! The clock driven minutiae that divide us constantly into more-than-two! Love that phrase. You are definitely practiced in the art of few words that lead directly to the point. And yes, if Zen isn’t groovy then what is?

  • Tom Kiso Brown:

    08 Jun 2012 21:45:08

    Hi Jokai,
    I remember my first ever sesshin and how I realised my deep love for “my” children and how within the following 24 hours that deep love for “my” children became love for all children, in fact for all beings. At the same time I felt a lot of guilt because I was spending a week away seeking answers before I had actually constructed the questions. I felt very selfish and indulgent. During a later Dharma talk the subject of family and selfishness came up. We talked about how we needed to be selfish to do our practice as it was such a personal thing that needed to be tended too with quite a high degree of dedication. If all sentient beings were to be saved a selfish and determined practice was necessary. During another talk we spoke about being alone. Born alone, live alone and die alone. Not to be mistaken for lonely. Again family came to mind. Not just my children this time but also myself as a child in relation to my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc and seeing that I have always been alone since the day I was born. My understanding of family changed. I realised being alone. An understanding of my own parents being born, living and dying alone became clear to me and as I look back now I see how my father had probably realised this concept too, but certainly without any obvious intellectual or spiritual practice. We need to observe and support children. We need to be there for them. This is their place and time we share. We share it alone.

    Take care.

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