just sittin'

So I spent a few days in Tokeiin, a temple in the foothills of Shizuoka Prefecture, at a zen retreat. It was lead by Brad Warner, author of Hardcore Zen and Soto Buddhist Priest. And it was, surprisingly, a most beneficial experience. The food was awesome, too. Turns out the cook was a retired professional chef, so instead of the boring pious monk meals, we had some great stuff including tempura and veggie curry.
I was worried I'd be surrounded by crystal-hugging new age hippies, but was pleased to discover an international crowd (Spain, Canada, USA, France, Lithuania, Argentina, Ireland) of folks generally sincere and pleasant.
Typical day went something like this: 4:30 am wake up. Sit. Eat. Clean. Sit. Discuss. Sit. Eat. Sit. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
I am not entirely convinced that the religion of Buddhism is necessary, though it certainly seems a better alternative than any other religion (a quote I heard and a challenge I make to fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and Jews: "The principles of Zen Buddhism will not oppose reality, the realm of science.") The zen however, is another thing altogether. I thought swinging a sword for two hours every day was hard. Try this: Sit with your legs crossed reasonably uncomfortably (I recommend full lotus). Relax. Now stare at the wall. And don't move. For 10 minutes. 20 minutes. 30 minutes. 45 minutes.

Hard, isn't it? Not exactly inspirational, but the idea is that if you can sit and deal with your own random thoughts for half an hour, then all the other crap in life won't bug you as much. That's an extremely abridged version of an incredibly limited understanding, but you get the idea.

Oh yeah, I also did 20 minutes of yoga. It was incredibly grueling. I will never make fun of yoga hippies again.

So I am attempting some discipline and continue to wake up at 5:30 every morning and sit for half an hour. Does it help?


Patrick said...

Hey Ren,
Thanks for the shout-out. Was it really gruelling? I hope you keep it up and grow some you-know-whats before the next time I see you. And thanks, also, for the brief swordless sword demo.

ps...give your meat?

Kurisu said...
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Kurisu said...

2 comments... (since Buddhism is my bag baby)...

Buddhism is not a religion... it's a way of life, a philosophy to live by. Unless your religion is evil, then you can sprinkle it with Buddhist behavior... such as, respect for all life.

Recommended reading -
"An Open Heart"
and (a bit less about what Buddhism is about) but still a fantastic read-
"An Open Heart"

Ren said...

Well okay the yoga wasn't gruelling, but it was much harder than I thought! Haven't gotten to the dojo all week; crazy busy with work, so tomorrow I'll be in the dojo all day and I'll stretch and yoganate and then try cutting for a few hours.

Edward J. Taylor said...

I did the retreat a few years back, and had a great time. This was followed by a week of aikikai at Hombu, then a yamabushi training the next weekend. Did I mention that my feet weren't on the ground when I returned home?

Mysterion said...
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