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Saturday, 13 June 2009


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1. almost every day

3. scattered. not only did i miss/skip a day, which threw me off more than i expected, but my concentration has been at a low this week.

4. challenges have been some emotionally charged events: my father-in-law was hospitalized again and is now clearly dying, and on the other end of the spectrum, we bought a house this week. the pregnancy continues to be both a boon and a bane to my meditation and practice.

6. even as i've been regularly attending dojo, i find i still have a lot of trouble with the zen concept of the keisaku (stick). it is used often at this dojo (which is in the soto zen tradition), but always for the same man. i've been told one must ask to be hit with the keisaku (the man probably does, although we all face the wall so i can't tell), and apart from the acupressure relief i don't understand why one would request to be hit. i'm not asking anyone for an answer, just saying i'd like to know...

1. almost every day

3. confident. very enthusiastic about finishing 108 days and renewing my committment with whatever is coming next.

4. work. good grief...reorganized AGAIN. schedules up in the air. new team members. this makes sticking to a routine difficult.

andrée, I am not familiar with soto zen traditions. However, I can tell you that when I've been on retreat, sitting much of the day, I have CRAVED the stimulation and invigoration that it would bring. Concentration in the afternoon sittings is very difficult if you make the mistake of eating a bit too much at lunch or if you didn't sleep well the night before. One time I dozed off and my teacher said in a very loud stern voice "Please stay awake and alert!" It jolted me awake and while I was a bit embarrassed, I had very good concentration the rest of the sitting as a result of the adrenaline! I wish we used the stick in my tradition, I'd ask for it every afternoon!

thanks, sudo. that does make some sense. i personally have a strong tendency to be too alert and have never once dozed off during a sitting (or in class), ever, so maybe that's why the concept does't jive with me.

i have known practitioners in the tibetan tradition who would probably appreciate the keisaku. they regularly get sleepy, bobbing heads and all, during group practice. while this is as entertaining for the group as the keisaku (or the "please stay awake and alert!"), the practitioner herself (my two sleepy friends are women) doesn't get any benefit but a few scattered minutes of sleep.

the teacher at our dojo has told me that in japanese there is a word for "sensing the presence of the master with the stick," and for a few minutes in the last half hour or so of our sittings, the teacher walks around with the stick. but he said that rinzai zen is more severe than soto zen, in that the practitioners 1) are not facing the wall and therefore are more easily shamed; 2) do not ask to be hit... they just are.

there is obviously a place for everything in every tradition. i certainly don't want to pass judgement on the various schools of zen and their practices, i just feel that this stick thing is not for me. and that's fine at our dojo: i just don't ask to be hit.

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