Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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Spring Training Unfolds

March 20, 2013 by Jokai

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Spring Training Unfolds

A couple of weeks into Spring Training Period and life at the Center is very full. We began on March 3rd with a Training Period Entering which we did a little differently with the installation of three practice leaders for the months of March, April and May.

The first seven day Sesshin felt strong and flowed well. Many of the stalwarts were present which helps things settle quickly. This was my turn to teach oryoki (formal eating) which we currently do only as part of the Sesshin schedule. I soon realized that I needed a refresher myself. It’s instructive to me how I can forget to do even the simplest of tasks when they are not practiced regularly and embodied.

Transitioning from Sesshin to the regular training week is often a challenging time. People tend to be tired and the three months ahead can appear pretty daunting. One of the main ways that Yokoji is funded is through the hosting of guest groups and the weekend following Sesshin we once again welcomed Chapman University led by Mark Meier. Mark has been bringing his leading as a way of service program to Yokoji for fifteen years. One of the senior residents joins the group and helps with the teaching of Zen meditation. Serving in this capacity in previous years it was always a great encouragement to witness how students coming into what may have seemed an abstract, culturally unfamiliar practice, concluded the weekend with a genuine appreciation and insight into the practice of Zazen. It’s a real joy to meet and greet so many new faces, each person adds their unique qualities. This changing mix of people keeps the community fresh and vibrant.

With barely a pause to clean rooms and launder sheets, the departure of the Chapman group vacated space soon filled by Westridge High School who are currently staying with us. Hosting groups usually provokes quite a challenge to Yokoji’s residency. It’s a lot of work, particularly for the kitchen and housekeeping and often what little breaks there are in the schedule are erased by extra dish-washing duties and the other day-to-day tasks associated with caring for a large group of retreatants. Ideas of what Zen practice should be come in for much scrutiny. It’s often a challenge when the sound of twenty five college students entering the dining room replaces that of the wind and birdsong. Bringing these perceived barriers of where practice reaches to the boil, we have to deal with our difficulties directly and are given the opportunity to go beyond personal preferences and imagined limitations. Though the forms change, living and practicing at Yokoji provides the same food for the practice of our lives as does living in the City. A major gift of living and working here is that in taking on voluntary restrictions as to how we use our time, we realize our innate capacity to practice wholeheartedly in varied activities. Zen practice shouldn't look like anything in particular. It is only realized with practice.

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