Meditation As A Way Of Life

The Way of Meditation is so much more than just sitting cross legged on the floor, it permeates your whole life, gives you direction and informs your decision making. It is not a religion or belief system, it is a direct experience. I genuinely hope people can use meditation as a tool for freedom, happiness, healing, understanding and genuine enquiry rather than an oppressive dogma, dry ritual or set of rules. Meditation is done sitting still and this is a vital component to remembering our core and finding stillness, but the real challenge is integrating meditation into every moment of our lives; it is then that it becomes a way of being.

Source: Meditation As A Way Of Life

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What makes a good Zen student?

At the heart of Zen’s teaching is a marvelous bit of good news. We and this world itself are just as we are, broken and struggling. That’s a hard and we begin to discover a beautiful thing. And at the very same time we are intimately joined and all of it is perfect in a perfection that that word and all words cannot even begin to point toward. Two truths, a circle and a square that can be reconciled within the discerning heart. And the insight, the wise heart to which all the mechanics of our practice drive us.

As we throw ourselves on the pillow, as we study the guidance of our ancestors, as we meet with spiritual directors, we find our Zen life and the rest of our life becomes one thing.

Do we want to call it good? In some ways yes. In others that’s missing the point, entirely. We want to call it successful? Actually, the same thing. Right is some ways, missing the point entirely in others.

Beyond the mechanics of it, Zen becomes a way of clarification. Of loss and gain, of living into it all, in seeing how cause and effect are two things and not two things. We begin to see into the mystery of who and what we are. We learn. We realize. We forget. We start again.

The dance.

And, that, is Zen practice. And that is the way of an authentic Zen student…

via What Makes a Good Zen Student?

SHORTCUTS TO HAVING A STRONG ZEN RETREAT

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Zazen

Going to sesshin is a bit like preparing oneself prior to taking a journey to a distant
land. You need appropriate clothes, you need to know a few survival phrases, and
you need to have passing familiarity with the culture. In the same way, when you
come to sesshin, you need to dress correctly, you need to know a few terms, and you
need to know what is expected of you.

The best preparation for sesshin is to do as much extra zazen and chanting as
possible. This enables you to enter sesshin with a mind already receptive,
concentrated and attentive. Equally important are those things you should make
every effort to avoid because they will make it more difficult for you to settle into the
sesshin.

MOVIES & TV—Watching any movie, even one with a Buddhist theme is probably
the single worst thing you can do prior to sesshin. The imagery of movies is
implanted in the mind in such a way that it readily comes to consciousness during
zazen. Between our rampant thoughts, unstable emotions, and physical discomfort,
we have enough to contend with during sesshin. Why add to the burden? Same goes
for television.

EXTRANEOUS READING—Specifically novels, books about Zen, books with violent
themes (even if they are non-fiction), and magazines. It should be obvious why it is
inadvisable to read novels or books containing violence-you’ll be setting yourself up
for fantasies or particularly distressing makyo. As for magazines, you will end up
spending extra time trying to let go of the mental clutter created by what you have
read.

But why not Buddhist books? It is because the phrases in Zen texts will haunt you
during sesshin. You’ll find yourself comparing your mind states to those that were
described in the book you read. Instead of concentrating on your practice, you’ll be
concentrating on ideas concerning the practices you read about. It’s a no-win
situation. Give yourself a break-don’t read prior to sesshin.

MUSIC—If you start to quiet down your environment before sesshin begins, likewise,
your mind will begin to quiet. For many people, music sticks in the mind like super
glue. Catchy tunes, romantic melodies, bits and pieces of classical music can become
a broken record during sesshin.

Now here are a few things you should do, in addition to the essential extra sitting:

PREPARE YOUR BODY—Cut down on caffeine, stretch, get some extra sleep. Coffee
isn’t served during sesshin (black tea is available in the mornings), so if you’re used
to multiple cups of coffee it would be a good idea to cut back to avoid headaches.
With respect to sleep, if you are exhausted when you come to sesshin, you’ll fall
asleep during zazen. Try to get some extra rest both before and after sesshin.

PREPARE YOUR FAMILY—Family members need to know a bit about what you will
be doing, even if you’re not too sure yourself. At the very least, explain that you will
be incommunicado during sesshin, but that you can be reached in case of emergency
by e-mailing or calling the Center.

When my children were young, they looked forward to sesshins because my husband
let them get away with things I wouldn’t have, mostly at mealtimes, and because I
always left them a letter and tiny present for each day I was away. Every morning
they awoke to the letter, and each evening they looked forward to opening their
“sesshin present.” It was a little thing, but it made a huge difference in their attitude
toward my absences.

TAKE CARE OF COMMITMENTS—In the week or two before sesshin begins, try to
take care of things that need your attention so that you won’t be thinking about them
during sesshin. Be aware, too, that it is not uncommon for people to feel anxious or
even ill as sesshin approaches. This usually passes quickly once sesshin actually
begins.

Following these suggestions will not guarantee that your sesshin will be without ups
and downs, but it will go a long way to smoothing the road.

~Sunyana Graef, Roshi

2018 Holy Week Zen Retreat

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Holy Week Sesshin. March 23-28, 2018, Baguio Zen Center located in ICM House of Prayer. To reserve a slot, contact us: baguiozencenter@gmail.com

Retreats are a vital part of Zen practice. While daily sitting is the core of Zen practice, it’s important to also do longer practice times whenever possible. There is a depth of practice that only happens when you engage with yourself over a long period of time in a Zen retreat.

41 years of Zen in the Philippines

A Retreat to commemorate the 41st year of Zen in the Philippines. November 22-26, 2017. Baguio Zen Center Philippines, #4 CM Recto St., Navy Base area. Contact: Rudi Tabora, Mobile: 0977.827.6942 Email: baguiozencenter@gmail.com

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Baguio Zen Center Philippines