Finding Time for Zazen

As most of you know, zazen or seated meditation (“sitting”) is the core of our practice.  Zazen helps us quiet the mind, temporarily reducing and sometimes eliminating the chatter of our various internal voices.  When they quiet down, we can objectively reflect on that which is actually present.  In that space, we have an opportunity to discover who, or what, we really are—as opposed to what all of that monkey-mind chatter tells us we are.

As wonderful as that opportunity is, however, we often struggle to find time for zazen.  We are not monks living in temples, supported by our local communities, with only our spiritual practice to attend to.  No, we have to work jobs, take care of families, homes, cars, pets, neighbors, and so on.  Most of the time, we think we are busier than we want to be.  Often, our internal voices tell us with convincing, work-a-day authority that we don’t have time for zazen.  Zazen, these voices seem to say, is yet another thing we have to add on top of a stack of many other things that is already too much to manage.  Sometimes it seems like we need a bigger warehouse so that we can forklift in thirty minutes of zazen.

We do have another voice, however, that speaks to us with a different message.  It says that zazen is not a thing added to all of the other things in our lives.  In fact, this other voice continues, life is not at all like a stack or a pile or a boxful of things that we have to somehow force into what is already a bulging life-space.  This other voice says that life is just living, moment by moment.  Each moment contains the same amount of living space and living time.  You cannot put more into it or take anything out of it.  It is what it is, so why not relax?

Of course, it’s very hard to believe that this voice is telling us the truth when the baby’s diaper needs changing at the same time that that pot of bean soup on the stove is boiling over and a long-awaited phone call has now to be answered.  But the difference between someone who sits and someone who doesn’t is that the one who sits isn’t anxious and hysterical about those dirty-diaper-soup-pot-and-phone-call-all-at-once moments of life.  That person instantly sees which thing—the diaper, the soup, or the phone—will be attended to first.  Which one do you suppose it is?  There is a right answer here.  But if you think of life as an ever-accumulating tsunami of things and tasks, you’ll just be guessing, trying to triage your way out of the impossible.  You also can’t just evade the question by saying it doesn’t matter.  So what are you going to do?

And to return to the central question, how will you find time for zazen while doing everything else you have to do?  Those who sit can see in an instant when they will do it.   How have they managed to figure this out?  How will you?


Gendo Roshi is Spiritual Director of Great Wave Zen Sangha.

 

 

 

In-Person Zazen Cancelled as of August 3, 2021

Dear friends,

Last night, the GWZS Board of Directors considered the wisdom of continuing to offer weekly in-person sitting at Myogenji, given the considerable surge in COVID-19 infections, a vaccination rate of less than 60% in Mason County, and the very highly contagious nature of the Delta strain.  As a result, we decided that it would be best to once again cease holding in-person meetings in the zendo until there is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that no harm will be done by coming together in person.

I know this news will come as a disappointment for many of you, but it was, I feel, the right decision.  We considered whether simply adding a masking requirement to our current vaccination requirement would suffice to keep all safe for in-person meetings.  However, masking alone is not necessarily enough for a practice space as small as Myogenji’s.

Please Get Vaccinated

In addition to sharing the above news, the GWZS Board wishes to implore anyone who is purposely avoiding vaccination (or among the “vaccine-hesitant”) to reconsider their position.  All arguments against vaccination, except in instances involving children and very rare, pre-existing medical conditions, are unfounded.  (Tested vaccines for children may be available late this year or early next year.)  No valid scientific evidence exists that would suggest getting vaccinated carries a greater risk to one’s health than would be the case with any other vaccine.  Indeed, scientifically possible risks associated with vaccines are far, far less than those associated with getting sick with COVID-19.  Those who voluntarily refuse vaccination are largely responsible for the current resurgence of the coronavirus.  They unnecessarily put their own and others’ lives at risk of illness; serious, long-term debilitations;  and even death.  To do this is to violate the Pure Precept to Do No Harm and the first Grave Precept to avoid taking life.

If you have been led to believe that vaccines are dangerous or ineffective, please consult your primary healthcare provider for reliable information.  Be aware that anecdotal “evidence” that vaccines are unsafe is not evidence in a scientific sense.  (You may wish to consult credible debunking services such as Snopes or PolitiFact to determine whether anti-vaccine claims are valid grounds for refusing the vaccine.)  It may also help to understand the mechanisms that allow COVID vaccines to work.  If you would like more information about that, please use our Contact Form, and we will try to connect you to reliable sources of information.

Gendo Roshi, on behalf of the Great Wave Zen Sangha Board of Directors

 

Reminder: Rising Sun Zazenkai, July 9-11

Dear friends,

I just wanted to send you a little reminder that Great Wave will hold an in-person retreat July 9 – 11.  I called this event the Rising Sun Zazenkai because it is like a new day to be able to offer our first in-person retreat since the coronavirus pandemic began over a year ago.  I really do hope you’ll find a way to participate in this special event.

For those of you who cannot make it to this event in person, we are offering the opportunity to attend my teisho virtually via Zoom video conferencing.  The teisho will take place on Saturday, July 10, 10:00 – 11:00 AM, and we ask for a $10 donation.  To participate, please complete our Event Registration form.  You will then be emailed details about how to join the Zoom meeting.

Please take good care of yourselves and practice with as much dedication as you can.

In gassho,
Gendo Roshi

 

Online Zazen Tonight, Nov 5, 2020

Dear Friends,

This is just a friendly reminder that Great Wave Zen Sangha will be holding a period of zazen tonight via Zoom, starting promptly at 7:15 PM.

I know that votes in the presidential election are still being counted, and you may feel a compulsion to watch news outlets this evening, instead of sitting zazen.  That is fine.  There has never been a better time to find your center, your true home, than now.

To protect the security of our online sessions, we ask that everyone complete our registration form.  It’s free and easy to do.  Once registered, you will receive an email with a link that can be used to join the online Zoom video conferencing session.  You need only register once to join all future zazen sessions.

I look forward to practicing with you.

In Gassho,
Gendo Roshi

Video of Memorial Service for Taizan Maezumi, Roshi

Image of the White Plum Asanga Crest
The White Plum Asanga Crest

Each year in May, White Plum Asanga teachers around the world commemorate the passing of our founder, Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi, Roshi, (February 24, 1931–May 15, 1995).  Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, however, this year’s memorial service was held informally via Zoom on May 15.  The service was recorded, and I am able to share the video with you now.  As you will see, Maezumi Roshi’s surviving Dharma heirs each shared their reminiscences, including my teacher Susan Myoyu Andersen, Roshi.  The event revealed to me (and I’m sure it will to you too), just how important it is to perpetuate the Dharma through our unceasing practice and dedication.  It is a moving testimonial about the power that each of us has to promote a saner, happier world.

To watch the video, please use the link and password below.

In Gassho,
Gendo Roshi

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/7pFFCYnNsTJIHZXn7FvTaIUFQYj5T6a8h3IY__IMzEsO6tuzwtMcqUbidQ5ZuOn-

Access Password: 9w+w$@*y

Eco-Dharma at Great Wave Zen Sangha

[avatar user=”roshi” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]John Gendo Wolff, Roshi[/avatar]It’s hard to imagine how Zen might live on beyond my lifetime if it were to be deprived of its ancient affinity with the natural world.  So much of Zen’s heritage is an attempt to convey an essentially wordless experience in naturalistic metaphors and poetry, language that reaches for the truth through an acute awareness and appreciation of the seasons, plants, trees, birds, fish, flowers, waters, and wind.

But the more I read about our current climate crisis, the more I am convinced that the historically comfortable relationship we have had with nature is in grave danger.  Many experts believe that we are fast approaching an unavoidable period of catastrophic environmental change for which we are politically and socially unprepared—and that is to say nothing of the lack of spiritual preparation that must necessarily precede any substantive change of course.

Deer seek refuge from the flames of a forest fire.

In saying this, I don’t wish to create a sense of despair about the future of our planet or to dismiss the good that many of us do by recycling, by not wasting resources, by simply appreciating what we have.  Again, however, many credible experts believe that those efforts, positive as they are, will not be enough to avert an environmental disaster—so I am concerned about what more might be done.  Of course, I am no environmental expert, and I have no way of knowing what the future holds.  What I do know, however, is that we are alive right now, and, “like fish in little water,” we can make sure we live like we appreciate that fact, especially as a manifestation of the universal interdependence that supports all life on the planet.  That is, I hope I might urge you to consider, with some level-headed urgency,  your relationship to the natural world and what you think our collective role in protecting it ought to be.  When I say “urgency,” I mean a kind of deeply spiritual determination to “practice the Way as though saving your head from fire.”  Today, some environmental activists might suggest, as global warming is now reaching

Dust plumes over India and Pakistan. (NASA)

truly unsurvivable levels in southern Asia and the mideast, that that “fire” may be more literal than metaphorical.

To help begin reflection and discussion on the climate emergency and how other Buddhists are shaping the “eco-dharma” movement in response, I hope you might sample at least one or two of a long list of resources that I have compiled.  I do not claim that the list is all-inclusive or that all items are perfectly valid, but they are all reasonably well-informed and intelligently expressed.  You’ll find this list at https://greatwave.org/eco-dharma-and-climate-crisis-resources/.   If you know of other resources that really ought to be added to the list, please add them in a comment to this post.

Then, beginning with the August 2019 Gate of Sweet Nectar sesshin (August 7 – 13), I will be providing important context for a series of eco-dharma events that are currently being planned by Kevin Muzo Holohan, myself, and others.  Using teisho, mindful walking outdoors, book discussions, and other activities, I hope to bring more focus on the spiritual crisis that lies like the greater mass of an iceberg below the surface of our current environmental woes.  If there is any way that you can attend this retreat, I hope you will register very soon.

While most of our future eco-dharma events are expected to be scheduled for 2020, the first one will take place next month (August), and I hope you will participate.  It is a beach sweep, organized in conjunction with the Adopt-A-Beach program of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.  Our beach sweep will

The Lake Michigan shore.

take place near the spectacular Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, just north of Ludington, on Sunday, August 11, from 9:00 – 11:00 AM.  To register for this event, please visit http://greatlakesadopt.org/Secure/Event/15490.  (Note, if you have already registered for the August sesshin, during which this beach sweep takes place, you will still need to register separately for the sweep.  This helps the Alliance for the Great Lakes maintain its database of Adopt-A-Beach events.)

As we finish planning other events, they will, as always, be announced on the Great Wave Zen Sangha’s website, its Facebook page, and its Twitter feed.

◊ ◊ ◊

Many of you know that the first of the Four Bodhisattva Vows is “Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them.”  This vow should never be allowed to dissipate into mere rhetoric, “dead words.”  We live in a time when the mahasangha must produce the miraculous salvation it has promised to fulfill.  Please practice diligently so that that possibility becomes an actuality.

Finally, thank you for reading this long post.  I hope you will respond by posting your thoughts in a comment below.

In Gassho,
Gendo Roshi

Dokusan at Kyoseikan Dojo, July 17, 2019

For those of you in, or near, Grand Rapids, I will be giving dokusan tomorrow evening during the regular zazen period, 5:30-6:30 PM, at Kyoseikan Dojo (located at the northwest corner of US-131 and Hall St., in Suite B-148). Dokusan is the private interview tradition by which Zen students get individual questions answered and work through practice issues or obstacles with a teacher.  It is an indispensable part of Zen practice.

Note that, because I will be in Grand Rapids tomorrow, the regularly scheduled Wednesday evening zazen at Myogenji in Ludington is canceled.

I hope to see you at Kyoseikan tomorrow!

[avatar user=”roshi” size=”original” align=”left” link=”https://greatwave.org/our-teacher/”]John Gendo Wolff, Roshi [/avatar]

 

New Affilliate Sitting Groups Forming

Greetings,

I wanted to write one more time to those of you who participated in the Zen Fundamentals course this spring to let you know that Great Wave will now be sponsoring a new affiliate sitting group at Kyoseikan Dojo in Grand Rapids.

Kevin Muzo Holohan

Postulant priest Kevin Muzo Holohan will provide informal leadership for this new group.  Meetings will take place on Wednesdays, from 5:30 – 6:45 PM, starting on June 19.

Another delightful outcome of the Zen Fundamentals course is that our Cadillac, Michigan, participants have begun to arrange for a half-day Introduction to Zen workshop, tentatively scheduled to take place on July 7, from 1:00 – 5:00 PM, at the First Congregational Church in Cadillac.  Here too we are hoping that an affiliate sitting group will take shape and continue meeting on a weekly basis.

Volunteer efforts to create and sustain affiliate sitting groups like those at Kyoseikan and in Cadillac go a long way toward helping Great Wave Zen Sangha fulfill its mission to perpetuate the Buddha-dharma.  I’m grateful to all of you for helping to make these things possible.

Of course, it is also important for all of us to sustain the organization through regular dana.  Dana is the first of the six Buddhist paramitas (or “perfections”), a practice of generosity, or giving, that helps us see through our self-clinging.  When dana is directed toward a Zen center such as Great Wave Zen Sangha, then the sangha has the means to offer practice opportunities to everyone who wants them, including those who cannot afford even nominal workshop, retreat, or course fees.

Dana also helps us support our practice by enabling us to purchase necessary office supplies such as paper, printer cartridges, staples, folders, and so on.

And dana is, of course, what enables us to purchase cushions and other meditation and practice supplies that we need to support our practice.  I hope, therefore, that those of you who are chartering and participating in new sitting groups in Grand Rapids and Cadillac will consider becoming members of Great Wave Zen Sangha.

Great Wave currently allows for different membership levels—two are most applicable here: for those of you who have requested (or wish to) that I be your teacher, pledging dana at the “Practicing Members” level is appropriate (and allows for significant discounts on retreat and workshop fees); for others who hope to be coming to one of the new affiliate sitting groups, the appropriate membership level would be “Affiliate Member.”

If you are a student, or are on disability income, or otherwise find regular dana financially difficult, you may want to opt to become a member of GWZS at the “Friendship” level.  (Note: No one will be turned away from GWZS practice opportunities because of a lack of ability to pay.)

To set up regular dana payments, please visit our membership page at https://greatwave.org/membership/.

Thank you so much for your practice.

In gassho,
Roshi

[avatar user=”roshi” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”https://greatwave.org/our-teacher/” /]

Registration for June 9 Zazenkai

This is just a gentle reminder that our June 9, 2019 Fragrant Grasses Zazenkai is fast approaching.  We hope, therefore, that you will complete our Event Registration Form by no later than tomorrow, June 6. Your timely registration and payment allow us to plan a menu and make other arrangements.

We look forward to practicing with you!

In Gassho,
Gendo Roshi

[avatar user=”roshi” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”https://greatwave.org/our-teacher/” /]