People often ask me what do I get out of this? Daily zazen for eight hours or more – with breaks, of course, and periods of work, meals and rest – in silence. How is it possible not to get bored by not-doing? And what does it mean to face yourself, can you find Truth?
I have sat many sesshins with different Buddhist groups, Triratna, Soto, Tibetan, and of course Rinzai. In beautiful places, noisy places, special places… What I found there is a universal rhythm to days and nights, especially for a seven-day sesshin. By the end the pain in legs and other parts of your body is immaterial – simple joy of being alive and inexpressible gratitude to masters, teachers and fellow travellers outshines all.
As over-explaining is abhorred by Zen, there is a distilled record of a seven-day sesshin.
Great! The sesshin is about to start! Settling into an assigned place, glad to crash onto a cushion.
What am I doing here? I should have done this… had no time to do that… will x, y and z be done without me? What’s for an evening meal?
Hello bodymind! End of the day: bones stopped screaming; monkey mind had gone to sleep. Quick lie down watching the moon.
It will take a while
to meet Zen ancestors
in the starry space
11th Oxherding Picture
Through the trees
I glimpse white ox in the grove.
Now there is an eye, now a swish of a tail –
It mocks me as it has run away.
C’mon get me! The harder I try
the faster it plays hide and seek –
the path is overgrown.
Watching the dusk fall
getting up before the sun
pulling out the weeds
and then –
zazen is my home
The bell no longer calls for zazen
the trip back home is a flash
looking at a willow tree in a neighbour’s garden
everything is empty –
and yet so full
Dedicated to Melody Eshin Cornell Rōshi