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My visit to Pine Wind

June 30, 2008

I’ve been sitting regularly for the last six months and decided it was time to try a slightly more intensive session with a group of people.  It’s difficult where I live, because the closest group of zen practitioners that I can find is over an hour away (odd considering how populated my area is).  But, when visiting my parents in the town I grew up in, I decided to stop by the Pine Wind Zen Society for a 90-minute zazen session.  Considering I’m only sitting 15-20 minutes once a day, I was worried this was going to feel like a marathon!

The time was split up into three 25 minute sessions with 5 minutes of kinhin in between.  I was surprised by a few things.  First, it was easier than I expected.  At home when I sit, I find myself battling fidgetiness a lot, which I think comes from the fact I’m at home and have these nagging thoughts about other things I should be doing ("I should be doing the dishes" or "I should get to bed").  When you actually drive somewhere and your only intention is to just sit, it’s a lot easier to… just sit.  The other surprise I had was at the level of calm I felt afterwards.  While I was there, I felt relatively focused and relaxed, but when I left, it became really clear to me exactly how much tension and stress I’ve been carrying with me.  I hadn’t felt this calm in years.  It was pretty amazing really.  (Sadly, the next day I was pretty much back to normal.  But hey, realizing this is part of the process, right?)

Pine Wind’s a neat place.  If you didn’t know it was there, you’d pass right by while driving through the residential neighborhood that a few friends of mine from elementary school had grown up in.  They don’t follow any specific zen lineage:

Practicing the "Dharma Beyond Buddhism", at no time does The Zen Society exist to promote any peculiar religious doctrine, dogma, or teachings, and shares no formal affiliation with other Zen groups, denominations, or any hierarchy of Dharma Successors.

While most of the ten people there sat facing the center of the room, one woman faced the wall for two of the three sessions in a more traditional Soto style.  I decided to face the center of the room even though it’s not how I usually sit.  It didn’t bother me in the least.  While I didn’t really talk with anyone other than Ninshin, who was the one I spoke with over e-mail before attending, everyone was seemed very friendly.  I didn’t feel that awkwardness I remember feeling when visiting friends’ churches (or—ack—youth groups) as a kid.

I look forward to stopping in again sometime and while I still consider my practice a very personal thing, the experience definitely makes me want to hunt down a group closer to me that I can practice with periodically.

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