Fall Training Period
September 30, 2015 by Jokai
It’s the second week of the fall training period at Yokoji Zen mountain Center, and we’ve just completed a seven day sesshin. The word sesshin means to “Unify the Mind”. What I noticed in this particular period was sesshin also unifies people! We came together, a group of twenty individuals, each with their own particular reason for engaging in this time of intensive practice. We were people of all ages and backgrounds from all over the country –ranging from a 77 year old retired Chemist from Florida, to a 20 year old golfer from nearby. During sesshin, we sit Zazen (seated meditation) for many hours a day with periods of walking and meetings with the teachers. Each person courageously shows up for themselves and for each other, on the cushion, and faces their internal world and their bodies. This work is not for the faint of heart. Yasutani Roshi once said “Sesshin is like a battle between big mind and small mind. It is up to you how it turns out.” (From the Way of Zen)
In addition to formal practice, we also practice in many other ways. We eat in silence together, wash dishes together and care for the center together. These practices nourish our bodies, sustain the center and help us see that practice, as Tenshin Roshi so often says, “Doesn’t have to look like anything.” He asks, “How do you practice in daily life?” Doing our work and eating practice we get to see that there are endless opportunities to pay attention and bring our minds and hearts back to the task at hand, to this very moment. This is fertile training ground, so that when we leave the center, it is easier to bring practice into any and every aspect of our lives. The other function of sesshin, that I saw so clearly this time, was how our work together connected us as a community. Even in the silence many small and not so small acts of kindness and helpfulness occurred. Someone held a ladder for me, while I cleaned the windows. People shared tools and helped each other find supplies. Each day I witnessed folks going the extra mile, beyond what was asked of them. Something happens in this container of sesshin, which opens hearts and softens those lines we draw between our selves and others, between “my home” and “this place”. It all becomes our home and everyone is part of our sangha. It is not taught or forced; this connectivity arises naturally when we practice. This is exactly what the Buddha taught. Please come and join us for any part of the next nine weeks and tap into your essential goodness.
Beth Joshi Mulligan