Retreat Tips

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  • Lynn
    Member
    • Oct 2007
    • 180

    Retreat Tips

    Hello everyone!

    I would like to start this thread to use as an adjunct resource to Jundo's instructions for the upcoming retreat. Before posting your suggestions I would like to request that you have read through Jundo's info first so that what you might post doesn't seem in contradiction to the way Jundo is leading us through this.

    Some of us have had experience with sessin and I thought I would be nice to share some of the tips that have helped you through! I've been delighted in the past to have this kind of help and would love to spread the wealth.

    Here are a couple of my faves:

    1. SITTING: Now that I am officially old as dirt, with fossilizing bones, I have learned to use every other (or every new) sitting period to change the type of form I use. Thus, one sitting I use the zafu, the next a chair, the next a bench. I do this even if I am not currently experiencing discomfort in the current form. I have used this to keep pain from becoming a distraction from my meditation. Some pain is fine and normal for most people and, even with this tip, I know that I will still get tired, fatigued, and I'll want to shift and slump and stir. But this is just what I do to keep real harm from encroaching.

    2. SLEEP AIDS: Not the kind that help you *to sleep, the *from it! I don't care what time of day sitting occurs for me, I will always find drowsiness near at hand. I have certainly done many, many periods of sleeping meditation. ops: I use breath counting, deep breathing, and just shifting my gaze upward to open my eyes more fully as counter-active measures. If I am *really having trouble I will get up very quietly and stand just behind my cushion as still as possible. (JUNDO: Would this be acceptable if someone is having real trouble?)

    3. FOOD: Just an offering of a couple of things that I love: fruit salad light on acidic fruits, and fried rice. Either of these are modifiable to add protein: yogurt and or nuts for the salad; tofu bacon, eggs for the fried rice. YES! I have a recipe for tofu bacon that is unbelievably awsome. Glad to share it if you like!

    What's in your bag o' tricks?

    In Gassho~

    *Lynn
    When we wish to teach and enlighten all things by ourselves, we are deluded; when all things teach and enlighten us, we are enlightened. ~Dogen "Genjo Koan"
  • Lynn
    Member
    • Oct 2007
    • 180

    #2
    Re: Retreat Tips

    Originally posted by Lynn
    Some of us have had experience with sessin and I thought I would be nice to share some of the tips...
    Crikey! "I thought *IT* would be nice...etc."

    Sorry...is my ego slip showing again?? ops:

    More joe is required...

    In Gassho~

    *Lynn
    When we wish to teach and enlighten all things by ourselves, we are deluded; when all things teach and enlighten us, we are enlightened. ~Dogen "Genjo Koan"

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39474

      #3
      Hi Lynn,

      Thank you for the tips. They all sound good. Since folks will be sitting at home, no problem to stand up. That part might be frowned on in more formal settings.

      Also, no problem to shift or change position in the middle of Zazen. Just give a respectful Gassho before and after doing so (even if nobody is watching you!).

      A little pain is an important part of Zazen Practice, as we learn the mental side of that. We learn to "sit with" some discomfort, just observing it, just letting it be. We learn that there is the pain, and there is our inner resistance to having the pain, and that there is a wide gulf between the two.

      But, we should not be in pain most of the time. Moderation is the word.

      Gassho, Jundo
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Keishin
        Member
        • Jun 2007
        • 471

        #4
        bag o' tricks

        Hello Lynn and Jundo

        I have mixed feelings about this, (sharing helpful hints about various circumstances which may arise). While it is good to have helpful tips, and very thoughtful, I think it is also good to just dive into retreat and see what comes up. We each have some idea about what we will need and how it will go. If we discover, 3rd zazen period into the retreat, that we JUST CANT TAKE IT ANYMORE, and have to switch to a chair...well then, it's good to meet that as it arises and as we come to a 'natural response to reality'

        Let me give an example: at Sogen-ji we were served a salted plum tea (it was delicious, and wonderful to have first thing in the morning after chanting in the choka hall for an hour) Unfortunately, I was in the row of persons last to be served, and the cups were rapidly collected--one morning the tea served was too hot for me to drink rapidly--there I was, tea which would severely scald my mouth if I gulped it down, cup-collector coming to my row--just seconds away from me--what to do? what to do? There was an open window to my right, at my back. In a split second my answer was so clear and so obvious: take the cup in my right hand and toss the tea out the window--perfect solution in one move--I didn't cause any damage to anything outside the window, nor to my mouth, nor did I 'hold up' the flow of things in the zendo. Had I not had the window behind me, there would have been another response: the perfect response is fitting to the situation as it arises and is encountered in that there very minute.

        All little oddities of situations which arise during a sesshin are just like that, and in fact, all of life is just like that.
        Sesshins seem like a magnifying glass for these oddities...I remember experiencing so many of my movements as wrong, awkward, over-thought, or showing no thinking whatsoever.
        It is absolutely excellent to experience all of this--like learning to drive a car--now you are stalling out, now lurching forward--it is excellent to feel all this lag and thrust of the mind's thoughts and the body's actions in response to these thoughts, and conversely, to find yourself doing something and observe the mind responding to it ("uh oh, wrong hand again, drats, why did I just do that," etc etc)
        And to see what follows, and what follows and what follows...

        OK I'm going to go into an aside here, please bear with me. A woman friend of mine lived in Cape Breton when she was younger. She learned to spin her own yarn and beginners find it very hard to control the thickness of the yarn--it goes from very thin to fairly thick and back again. An experienced spinner is able to effortlessly keep the yarn a consistent thickness.
        However, it is impossible to 'duplicate' this beginners wavering between thick and thin. A beginning spinner's first attempts at spinning commands the most money she will ever get for her yarn--because beginners become experienced spinners, and can never make 'beginner's yarn' again.
        So I would say, please appreciate your 'beginner retreat' experiences. You'll get to be experienced sesshin-ists soon enough.
        I've gone on too long here and will stop. Please cherish your now too thin, now too thick beginner's yarn while you can make it!

        gassho
        kesshin (who tends to spin too long yarns)

        Comment

        • will
          Member
          • Jun 2007
          • 2331

          #5
          Thanks Keishin.

          Gassho Will
          [size=85:z6oilzbt]
          To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
          To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
          To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
          To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
          [/size:z6oilzbt]

          Comment

          • greg
            Member
            • Oct 2007
            • 41

            #6
            Thank you Keishin and thank you Lynn... both of you are very helpful...

            this will be my first spinning of zazenkai yarn and I'm really looking forward to it.

            Gassho,
            Greg

            Comment

            • Lynn
              Member
              • Oct 2007
              • 180

              #7
              Thanks, Keishin. You're right: just jumping into the waters is the best way for anyone to approach the beginner's mind needed for sesshin.

              I offered the tips because I realize that one of the most helpful things for me in doing sesshin in an actual zendo with others of varying levels of experience is that I get the benefit right then and there of, at the very least, watching what others are doing. And, if I get into some kind of real problem for myself, I do have the opportunity of getting a note to someone asking for help. These types of opportunities won't be available in this format. I was trying to reflect on some of the things that are very common for beginner and experienced sitters alike. I know 30+ year monks who have trouble with both of these issues (distracting pain and sleepiness.)

              No, not everyone will experience excrutiating pain in sitting, so they wouldn't wonder whether or not they need a new form of sitting. I happen to have a disc problem involving the lower 4 discs of my back...I am someone who needs to shift form or I can put myself into the hospital in traction (as I've done.) Since I don't know how many of us on this forum may have a similar issue, I just put it out there. No, not everyone will experience sleepiness. But, I do, and it's become a distraction and some of us will be doing this on the nighttime side of the force and it might become so for them as well.

              Yes, it's good to not readily give in to the body's demands. Being as a mountain and maintaining your seat through the aches and pains of mind and body, keeping a bright mind..wonderful ideals. Then, there's the actual. Like a box with it's lid. Middle Way.

              As ever, it is for each of us to find that Way...

              With bows~

              *Lynn
              When we wish to teach and enlighten all things by ourselves, we are deluded; when all things teach and enlighten us, we are enlightened. ~Dogen "Genjo Koan"

              Comment

              • Keishin
                Member
                • Jun 2007
                • 471

                #8
                retreat tips

                Hello Lynn!

                you raise excellent points
                It's true the format won't lend itself to the 'usual' sesshin predicaments or solutions.
                In my 'too hot tea' example I gave, the 'pressure' came from the imposed 'rules' of the temple: certain order of serving people, certain requirement that all be finished with their drinking at the same time, no matter what order they were served in, and
                being caught in a predicament (really a 'pretend' predicament, if you will, but it certaily felt real enough in the moment!)of needing to comply.

                It is good to prepare--especially if we were to be going somewhere else for the retreat, like at a zendo--and, as in the case of your back, you know that you will be altering your sitting as the need to do so arises.

                And you are absolutely right 'beginner's mind' after all, is never something we are far from.

                So, I'm going to put a lid on this box for now!

                Treeleafers, get ready to make Treeleaf Sangha history!

                gassho
                keishin

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39474

                  #9
                  Re: retreat tips

                  Hi Guys,

                  Originally posted by Keishin
                  Hello Lynn!

                  you raise excellent points
                  It's true the format won't lend itself to the 'usual' sesshin predicaments or solutions.
                  In my 'too hot tea' example I gave, the 'pressure' came from the imposed 'rules' of the temple: certain order of serving people, certain requirement that all be finished with their drinking at the same time, no matter what order they were served in, and
                  being caught in a predicament ...

                  For me, one of the fascinating aspects of our Retreat is that the "group pressure" to conform (as usually found when sitting at a group retreat, just as you describe Keishin), will be replaced with a need for self-discipline, not cutting any corners just because nobody is there to see (of course, you are there to see what you do). This sitting is an interesting mix of a solitary Retreat in a cave and a group sitting.

                  Of course, I hope folks will study the meal chants and the like and try to conform to the group and the leader (me) as seen over the broadcast (I was up late polishing the chants last night.) I hope to have them out to everyone tomorrow.


                  Lynn wrote:
                  I offered the tips because I realize that one of the most helpful things for me in doing sesshin in an actual zendo with others of varying levels of experience is that I get the benefit right then and there of, at the very least, at least watching what others are doing.
                  When we do a multi-day Sesshin next year, I will have a sophisticated 'live chat' function set up so people can shoot the breeze during breaks. I did not do that this time.

                  Also, this Retreat on Saturday will not only be just watching folks during Oryoki, Samu etc. from a distance. For much of it, the camera will be so positioned that I and others attending here will be on camera close up and leading the activities, talking people through them. So, there will be a 'follow the leader' aspect to it. At least, that is the plan!


                  Treeleafers, get ready to make Treeleaf Sangha history!
                  Not just Treeleaf history! From all information that I have been able to gather through the 'Zen Teachers' Grapevine' (we actually have an association and chat), nothing close to this has been attempted in the Western Zen world. People have put various talks and such up for download, but no Retreat has been done like this.

                  Maybe a first in the Universe

                  Gassho, Jundo
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Lynn
                    Member
                    • Oct 2007
                    • 180

                    #10
                    Wow!! Jundo, this is really a grand effort and I can't tell you how grateful I am to be a part of it! Thank you so very, very much!

                    In Gassho~

                    *Lynn
                    When we wish to teach and enlighten all things by ourselves, we are deluded; when all things teach and enlighten us, we are enlightened. ~Dogen "Genjo Koan"

                    Comment

                    • will
                      Member
                      • Jun 2007
                      • 2331

                      #11
                      Next time we need holograms Scotty.

                      G,W
                      [size=85:z6oilzbt]
                      To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
                      To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
                      To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
                      To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
                      [/size:z6oilzbt]

                      Comment

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