I was insanely beat this weekend. Saturday was like wow, indescribable although I’ll try ! What is a Zazenkai? It’s a Zen Buddhist all day meditation intensive. I arrived at 645am meaning get up and be on the road by 610am at the latest. For those of us who needed a refresher or never did orioki, training/review was at 715. I’ve done it before but it was over a year ago. The doors were locked at 755 and by 8am our butts were on our cushions (zabutan with either a zafu or seiza bench which is what I use). Basically we sit zazen (instructions here) for 30″, do 10″ of kinhin (walking meditation) then back to seated zazen, etc. total for the day was 11-12 sits (lost count). I sometimes sit through kinhin so end up sitting 70″ straight.
We did 3 rounds then the teacher, visiting from the monastery, did a dharma talk. We sat another 2-3 rounds after that. During the time before and after the talk we had the opportunity to meet with her in face to face teaching in a private area. I was the last person before lunch. More on that later. We did orioki for lunch which is a ritualistic way for everyone to eat together in the zendo (meditation hall). I’ve been adding a version of this into my daily home practice to restore my relationship with food; mindful eating.
Afterward we had rest practice which means we leave the zendo and do what we want for 30″. I went down to the basement and stretched and lied down for a little. It felt like 40°F cooler than the zendo. At 150pm we were back at it and those who didn’t have face to face teaching got their chance. I dozed off like 5 times during the first 2 rounds after lunch but catching myself before falling over, lol. After 2-3 rounds we did the service: vows and bows as we like to call it. Then the final 3 rounds before ending. Without all the breaks it added up to a little over 8 hours of meditation more or less!
Face to face teaching
I decided to ask if there was a zen perspective on dealing with sexual trauma. Why not, you never know… I spilled my history in about 5 minutes. She said “no, there isn’t anything in practice that can be used for that other than understanding that all life is suffering and our practice is in moving beyond that.” She said that I should continue with the therapy I am currently doing and understand that these things take time and patience. Friday evening she had given a public talk on mindfulness (active mindfulness, not the recent secularized variety espoused across the internet) and talked about letting go. I asked about this and she said that absolutely doesn’t apply for a situation like this; it’s too deep. She said that my experiences make up who I am today and the practice of zazen is to be an observer but not to engage the story of what happened, and that takes time. She warned me not to associate sitting zazen with working on this because it could essentially make zazen unsafe. That makes sense.
From her public talk I took one of her stories and it is working well during meditation. I see myself at the end of a long rope that tethers me to a boat floating gracefully on the sea. As thoughts intrude, as they do constantly it seems, I put them on the boat and settle back into embracing my breath, feeling myself expand and contract as the breath comes in an out. Continually putting stuff on the boat puts it outside of me while at the same time allowing me to observe without getting emotionally involved.
To continue… she said that as I continue in practice, the person known as Lexy will expand while the painful bubble of that experience will remain inside, seemingly getting smaller but only in comparison to my expansion, but no longer affecting my present. It will simply be a part of who I am without causing suffering. I felt a burden lifting in a sense. I am not alone. She recommended working closely with a teacher although I won’t have an opportunity to go to the monastery in a good long while due to money issues.
I love orioki. I don’t always do the formal way of this when at home, although I’d like to, I do practice mindful eating at least at breakfast. I’ve been preparing my meal and then eating it at my zabutan before sitting zazen.
During formal practice we use orioki bowls, set them up while chanting, pass the food, or have it served, eat together, clean up together, etc. We clean our bowls with ambrosia water so that we don’t waste anything. It is honoring ourselves, the food as it is prepared as well as all those who went into growing the food to sustain our lives.
Wow, what a challenge especially for me having fibromyalgia. The day after I went about my normal business although I did call off from the evening meeting. What I hadn’t known was that I should have spent the day recovering. Sitting all day in zazen doesn’t seem like something one needs to recover from unless you have fibro. If you do, you are nodding your head right now completely understanding the necessity. How I found this out will be in my next post.
Meal Gatha, said during orioki. I say this in the morning too before breakfast.