Sunday, May 25, 2008

Every day zazen

At one time I had quite a few regulars here and I've had comments from a few well-known names in the dharmasphere, but I'm quite irregular so I think I've probably lost everyone. I've got my own PC again and I'm relaunching the blog with a new name: 'Urban Bodhisattva'. Welcome. Say hello. Let me know what you think.

I'm now doing zazen every day. I've built up to this gradually and because I have a lot of commuting to do as well as family responsibilities half an hour is what I can manage. I know of monks and nuns who go on very long retreats in Europe but who don't practive at home. I don't really understand this. I can see the importance of the retreats, but you don't have to wait for months or travel hundreds of miles to find the here and now.

Paradoxically, it's easier to do zazen every day than it is to do it two or three times a week. And it's easier to do it for a set period every day than to try to fit in as much as you have time for. This is because there can be a fight about whether you're going to do it today or not and how much and whether you could put it off till later ot until tomorrow and how you're going to adjust your schedule. It's best to have a non-negotiable period in the morning when you do it. And then just do it. Set an alarm, and when it goes off, just do your zazen. Do do it because you feel like it and avoid it because you don't. You're not doing it to get a grrovy feeling or an exciting experience - that's what TV, and Playstation and movies are for. Thrills and escapism. If you 'don't have time' then get up earlier. In the evening there are many distractions from TV, the Internet, household jobs and your relationships with other people. It's hard to escape from those attachments and excuse yourself from social situations. But the morning is quiet and even if you're sleepy, it's easy to be motivated and focussed.

The fundamental problem of course is that zazen is boring - generally speaking at least. If zazen was like watching The Sopranos or playing Halo 3, there wouldn't be an issue. But it isn't. Don't get me wrong - I usually find zazen very satisfying, very peaceful, even blissful, but the mind is resless and hard to tame - staring at a wall is one of the last things we want to do. We'd rather escape into a fantasy or even get ourselves involved in some destructive drama rather than face our own selves and the actual reality of our lives. But it's only by facing this regularly that we can stop running from it and find happiness which is not dependent on other factors. You can't find inner happiness in spomething outside yourself - or even if you are dependent on being in a particular mood. We have to sit and confront our demons and one of the strongest of these is also the most insidious and insipid - boredom. The quality of Brad Warner's advice and teaching is very mixed but he can be a very engaging writer. I recommend a very early internet article he wrote - the first of his I read and probably still the best.

Zen is boring

If I ever take monk ordination I feel I should be sitting for at least an hour every day.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. you type:
    "But the morning is quiet and even if you're sleepy, it's easy to be motivated and focussed." ...
    Dude... there is NO WAY I can do zazen in the morning unless I have to GO Somewhere, to do it.. (eg: the dojo) - my zafu is 1.5m from my bed. and until i've had the required 4Ls of coffee, the duvet wins EVERY time over the zafu.

    In the evening.. after work/before supper, or just before bed.. NOW you're talking!

    - A teacher once told me that one should go for a regular practise. And that could be whatever "regular" was for you.. but that once you decided on what the definition of regular was (eg: 4 times a week with others, 2 times at home, one day hosan... or every weekday...or whatever)that you should follow through.

    I do think it's important that people don't set unrealistic expectations up for themselves. "I will sit for 45 minutes each morning at 6:00am" - but the kids are throwing up all night, or you sleep in and need to get to work... no judgement.. ok.. resume intention. Or, maybe this isn't realistic for you.. maybe 15 minutes before bed each night is more realistic.

    On daily practise an American teacher once told me - if you prefer to sit alone, you should sit with others sometimes.. and if you prefer to only sit with others.. you should sit on your own sometimes.

    of course.. in zazen we are both radically alone, and also with all beings.

    keep up the word-smithing ! :-)

    (I just posted this.. and then deleted my post because I had typo'ed badly...)