Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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Wood Smoke

October 24, 2012 by Jokai

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Wood Smoke

The fall training period continues to unfold here at Yokoji as temperatures drop and the old familiar scent of wood smoke starts to compliment morning and evening zazen. The second Sesshin of the training period was very well attended, gently nudging us out of the Buddha Hall and into the Zendo. Many expressed their liking for sitting on the tans, the traditional raised wooden platforms used for zazen and oryoki that Tenshin Roshi and the Yokoji residents constructed.

For myself, I was particularly appreciative of our Manjusri Statue who sits on the Zendo Altar. In this depiction, Manjusri is clad as a Zen Monk, sitting in zazen posture, hands arranged in the cosmic mudra with a gentle half smile upon his face. Look below though and we can see that Manjusri is sitting on a lion. Not a sleepy lion either, but a wide awake lion in all its awesome power. It’s a powerful image and a visual reminder that no matter what difficult states arises in our sitting practice, the posture and practice of true zazen is a container without discrimination.

After Sesshin we transitioned once again into the regular training schedule. Post Sesshin can often be a tricky time energetically. The rest day schedule is ours to fill as we wish, each of us responsible for how to manifest and maintain our practice without the Sesshin guidelines to support us. Long term residents tend to stay close to home and take the opportunity to relax. Others go back to their jobs and families away from the Center. After the rest days the Yokoji residents gathered once again, resuming our sitting in the Buddha Hall.

It really is a rare gift to be able to follow this ancient way at a formal training center, be that as a resident, member or visitor (physical and cyber included!). The effect of our combined energies seems to create something greater than the sum of our parts. A community such as this is constantly in flux and that in itself is a great teaching. We let go of the people we have grown to love as they leave us. People we had no idea existed arrive in the parking lot (it’s better if they call or email first). There is change and difference, yet permeating that is something that doesn't ever change. No matter what the schedule, the weather or the population.

This morning it’s very cold in the Yokoji office. It takes a while for the little wood stove to heat the space. With attention and careful maintenance however, its manifest practice reaches everywhere - warming toes and fingers without preference. Thank you for your practice.


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