Big Sitting

March 10, 2009

It’s been about 1 1/4 years since I started my zen practice in earnest.  The first half of last year, I was very consistent with my zazen.  But, the second half of the year, I started getting a lot more lackadaisical.  By the end of the year, I was occasionally missing two or three days a week.  That’s just silly.

And that’s why I decided to take part in this year’s “Big Sit” sponsored by Tricycle.  I’ve become a fan of Tricycle over the other Buddhist print magazines thanks to some really good issues in the last year.  This 90-day practice session struck me because a.) it’s following zen practice (the last session was a 30-day Vipassana session), b.) it encouraged at least 20 minutes of daily zazen, c.) over the course of the 90 days, participants read the Genjokoan and podcasts with well-respected western zen teachers discuss it, and d.) there’s an online community built specifically for the event.  It started a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been steady with my practice, increasing from 15 minutes at night to 20.  I did miss two days, but that was a conscious decision.  I’m behind on my podcasts and participation in the community, but I have been reading the Genjokoan and a few different interpretations that I’ve dug up.

So, anyway, that’s going well.

In the “Big Sit” issue of Tricycle (Spring 2009), there’s an article by Shozan Jack Haubner titled “Son of a Gun” where he discusses his life as the son of a man who creates the guns that are used in Iraq.  It’s a wonderful article and this paragraph in particular stuck (emphasis mine):

In the Buddhist view, I depend on you for my existence.  All things depend on each other, equally.  Welcome to the doctrine of dependent origination.  It’s teeter-totter metaphysics—I arise, you arise; you arise, I arise.  Forget about our presumed Maker, the diving machinist in the sky.  You are you because you are not something else; therefore, what you are not—the chair beneath you, the air in your lungs, these words—births you through an infinity of opposites.  It’s like the ultimate Dr. Seuss riddle: Without all the things that are not you, who would you be you to?  There’s no Higher Power in this system to grab onto for support; we are all already supporting each other.  Pull a person or people the wrong way, and you immediately redefine yourself in light of what you’ve done to your neighbor.

It’s becoming more and more clear to me how this idea of “self” that we learn isn’t really quite right.  We’re inextricably tied to everything and everyone else here and our actions and attitudes spread throughout the web.



  1. I enjoyed this entry, loved the part about Dr. Seuss. I am learning how to meditate, and have been going to Zen Chat night and other things at the Pine Wind Zen Center for a year and a half. I find it an incredible calm and beautiful place. I can’t wait to go back and meditate there. I am still working on meditating every day, but honestly, I feel that studying Zen has already transformed my life. I’m hooked. Roshi Reijaku from Pine Wind has recently published a book and its wonderful.

  2. Hello-
    I just want to say that I stumbled across your blog while looking for something Zen-related. Congrats on beginning practice.
    One of the teachers I’ve studied with over the years used to say “don’t check. just do it,” talking about practice.
    Maybe its inevitable in the blog age, but I find I want to encourage you to maybe practice for 10 years before even talking about it. All this blah blah blah, and your feet are barely wet. You don’t even know what you don’t know. All that is fine of course, 10,000 zen sayings about beginners mind and all that.
    But again, still, I find that I want to encourage you to not get all swept up in your new “Zen identity” and just sit. And go do as many sesshin as you can – no one knows anything about Zen until maybe 36 days of sesshin (to pick a random number that sounds good, but not really enough.) I’ve practiced for 20 years now, and still am loathe to talk about it.
    Shush. Silence is golden.

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