Thursday, November 19, 2009
We usually open our Wednesday evening classes with about 20 minutes of zazen. Given that most of us are coming from work, and we are Zen students, it makes sense to start with meditation. Yesterday evening, I had a lot of painful muck coming up during zazen. Some of it was grief and exhaustion related to my job, but most of it was undefined energy throbbing in various parts of my body. Tight stomach, clogged lungs, clenched shoulders. As the bell rang to end the sitting, I felt relief - when it's like that, even 20 minutes can feel like an eternity. And then I heard one of the class teachers say "I want to rearrange the schedule tonight. I'd like to do my talk in the form of a guided meditation. We're going to sit for about a half an hour now."
I watched my mind blow a gasket - "Not now! I don't want to do that! Anything but sit more." And then I let all that go and went back to the muck coming up within. The intensity increased; the unpleasantness increased. I struggled to follow what we were being guided to focus on, but basically it was about meditating on how what we like, and our attachments to what we like, shape how we view the world. It's kind of ironic that I was sitting through that in what I don't really like - grief, physical pain, confusion.
This experience, I think, is one reason why I value sangha. Being in a group of sincere practitioners, some of whom were also struggling during that very same period of zazen, gave me the support needed to stay with it. Sometimes, I can stick with it when I'm sitting on my own. Other times, not so much.
Being in a group, and giving up your preference to be done with zazen for the day, just to give one example, is invaluable in my view. Can this happen for lone practitioners who are solely relying on internet practice communities? Sure. But it's probably not as easy to do.
Regardless of what form your practice takes, how often do you opt to check out or go too easy on yourself? What role does surrendering to what's coming up, no matter what, play in your practice?
It's important to keep questions like this in mind. Or else your practice might end up looking like the desk in the photo above. Maybe it's there right now. Have you checked lately?
Posted by Nathan at 7:56 AM