Sunday, August 29, 2004

I attended the sesshin/day of zen yesterday at the N.O. Zen Temple. 12 hours of meditation, light housekeeping (called "samu" or work meditation), and socializing. There was a rule of silence, but everybody ignored that after the second zazen session ended. Anyhow, it was good for my brain. I found myself trying to force my mind to repeat past meditation experiences. I've read that it doesn't work that way, and it doesn't. Also, in Soto Zen, one is supposed to approach meditation with no expectations, what they call "mushotoku mind." It was frustrating. I was able to just focus on breathing and posture during the third and final zazen session, and it went better. I even requested the kyosoku (a stick that is used to whack the recipient along a particular acupuncture meridian). I didn't have any spectacular enlightenment experience, or even a minor catharsis, but my mind was calm and clear at the end. All in all, a worthwhile experience. The NOZT does these day-long things every month. I'll probably make a couple of them per year; any more than that would be too much.

12 comments:

Jo said...

Wait! What? WHACKED? A stick? And WHACKED? Did it leave a mark. :)

Randy said...

Well, not whacked like Tony Soprano whacks people, just hit. Just one hard thwack on each shoulder. No mark, and it actually felt pretty good after a minute or two. I could tell from the sound as J. went around the room that some people got smacked harder than others. Hmmmmm.

doug said...

"mushotoku mind" reads to me "mush mind", hey I could do that :)

What are the people like at these day long NOZT shin digs?

Phoebe said...

So the whole goal is to get you to think of nothing? Clear the mind, so to speak? Am I right? What I want to know is HOW that benefits you the rest of the day, or week, or however long that is supposed to benefit you. Wouldn't taking a nap have longer lasting benefits than trying to make yourself think of nothing for an hour? Not making light of this at all -- just want to learn what the goal is, since that would be key for me to understand the whole Zen thing. OK? So answer me :)

Randy said...

I don't know whether taking a nap would have the same effect. The trick is to be aware that you're thinking of nothing, or in a state of hishiryo (beyond thought), whatever that is. That's what people strive for. DW thought I was crazy when I tried to explain some of this stuff to her.

As far as what people are like at these things, they're pretty normal folks. Most seem to have a little more of an intellectual bent than I usually do.

Phoebe said...

I certainly don't think you're crazy; I just want to understand what happens when you clear your mind. Obviously, I've never done that :) You haven't answered what the benefit would be. i'd like to try it if I knew what the benefit was.

Randy said...

Okay, Brenda, here's some of the stuff my DW thought was nutty.

So far, I've had a few blissful moments of total mental freedom. That's the only way I can describe it. I think the focus on posture and breathing fives the rest of the mind a chance to relax completely and to free itself from its usual constraints and compartmentalization.

Even a slowing of the mind is great for me. I've started off a few times feeling like a jittery driver with a car radio, changing from station to station every second or two. I had that many thoughts in my head at once. Within a few minutes, those thoughts were gone. It was like having my mind massaged.

Randy said...

Oops, spelling error in my last comment. I meant to say "gives," not "fives."

doug said...

hey that was pretty good R, I liked that explanation

Phoebe said...

A few moments of total mental freedom does sound very appealing. I liked that. I wonder, though. The times when I really want to escape the static going on in my brain are the times when I feel the least able to calm down and try meditation, you know? I feel like running, crying, kicking the dog (don't worry -- I don't kick dogs or any other creature) or getting drunk (don't worry -- I don't get drunk, but it sometimes sounds like a blissfully mind-numbing thing to do).

How do you force yourself into an attitudinal posture to embark on something peaceful, when you are feeling anything BUT peaceful? Practise? Discipline? Oh, I hope it isn't discipline. I hate that.

This is a fun exchange, by the way. I hope I'm not ticking you off.

Randy said...

Well, certainly there's an element of discipline involved in doing things consistently over time. It was more a curiosity the first few times I tried sitting to my CD course, but I realized that I felt much better. Last fall and winter I was willing to try anything. Desperation and depression can be great motivators to self-improvement.

Phoebe said...

I know that well.

What I like about your Zen experiences is the interesting people and circumstances you are introduced to, as well as how it is helping you.