temple rules (not really)

Having recently disaffiliated from a number of mainstream Soto organizations, in protest of what I guess might be considered political corruption (or at least a mass failure of vision), I find myself wanting to make sure that I am functioning along relatively impeccable personal guidelines as the practical facilitator of the Valley Dragon experiment. I am consciously looking to my fellow travelers in the group to arrive at the expression of shared motivations and guidelines, when, where, and if needed.

I practiced for many years in the Kwan Um School of Zen, which derives from Korean Buddhist traditions. Without getting into a narrative about why I changed to the Japanese Soto school, let’s just say I wanted more just sitting, less distracting psycho-cultural theatrics. There turned out to be plenty of that too in Soto (another topic), but still, my interest in just sitting endures. It’s the explicit purpose and mission of Valley Dragon, so I keep spelling this out and emphasizing it, at the risk of flogging a dead horse. There are many things from both the Korean and Japanese traditions that I continue to appreciate and practice. One thing I used to think was interesting was how at the start of every Korean-style retreat, a standardized set of ‘temple rules’ used throughout their centers were read aloud by the participants. Aren’t twelve-step meetings always started by reading some rules and guidelines, and resetting a direction?

Father Thomas Keating just died. I did not know him, though I feel like I’ve been aware of him for the 30-ish years of my adult life. I learned in an obituary that one of his associates started a center here in Albuquerque fostering “contemplative prayer” — Keating’s and others’ Catholic response to the desire by mainly young Boomers for contemplative practice, i.e. meditation. Their “8 Core Principles” inspired me to tweak and reframe them with what it is we do in mind. I am not actually proposing the adoption of these as fixed principles; something in me recoils at the risk of too much structure. However, I think they do indicate a general direction, and reflect my own core principles about what it is that might best be emphasized. I like that the language feels fresh and real, rather than recycled Buddhist phrases that in many cases seem to have been lately coopted and diminished in service to certain ideological agendas. Maybe these ‘precepts’ can serve as topics for further discussion and, well, contemplation.

10 Core Principles for Places of Just Sitting

  1. Zazen (silent contemplation) is our central reference point.
  2. We see that a contemplative attitude and practice helps us to live more fully and well.
  3. The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Fixed opposition tends to foster needless conflict and stagnation.
  4. We recognize that creative solutions are often found at the bottom and the edges, rather than at the top or center of groups and institutions; and that responsible hierarchies, enduring ancestral wisdom, and legal custom must be kindly and accountably respected.
  5. Free congress and open dialogue are understood to be the mechanisms of personal and social sanity.
  6. We support true author-ity, recognizing every human’s intrinsic ability and driving need to author their own life, regardless of perceived or self-identified group affiliation, capacity, or will.
  7. Life is more a process of developing better questions, rather than adhering to fixed answers.
  8. Authentic spirituality leads to our embodying our truest selves, as false selves fall away.
  9. We see that anger and resentment are destructive diseases (born from trauma) to be healed from, not flames to be fanned.
  10. We do not just think or feel ourselves into a new mode of living, but faithfully live ourselves into new ways of being.
Frederick Hammersley, Covenant, 1963, screenprint on paper

Half Day reminder, 10/13/18

Valley Dragon continues to meet on Sunday nights at our usual time (zazen at 7:15 pm). After zazen, we are continuing our casual study of excerpts of zazen-pertinent texts from both Zen and other traditions, led by Titus and other sangha participants. Please join us!

Our next half day sit is this Saturday, October 13.. This is another rare chance to sit for a few periods in a row, and get a taste of the deeper settling that Zen can help support in our lives, in this often turbulent-seeming time.

The schedule is as follows:

1:00-1:35 zazen (sitting)
1:35-1:45 kinhin (walking)
1:45-2:20 zazen
2:20-2:30 kinhin
2:30-3:05 zazen
3:05-3:15 kinhin
3:15-3:50 zazen
3:50-4:00 kinhin
4:00-4:35 zazen
4:35 closing

There is no fee, and you may enter or depart at any point, preferably during the kinhin periods. Donations (for use of space and supplies) are welcome.

Please wear loose comfortable clothing, preferably in muted solid colors that cover knees and shoulders. Make sure cell phones are turned off – please check that vibration also is turned off. Please leave personal items, including water bottles, in non-practice spaces (entry or back room.)

As usual, we will be at Dragonfly Yoga. Please be in touch if you have questions or concerns.

(image: Richard Hogan, Costilla (detail), 1987, oil on canvas, Albuquerque Museum)


The Path was Already Completed Before the First Step!

A Dzogchen person I follow posted this on Facebook. I couldn’t glean whether he wrote it, or it was a quote from an old master. Not sure it matters. Let’s talk about it Sunday.

The Seeking is Finally Finished! The Path was Already Completed Before the First Step!

Is it necessary to become aware of awareness? Is it necessary to notice what’s noticing?

Is it necessary to try to breath?

Awareness is already aware and requires no second act of trying to be aware of what is already aware.

Is noticing of experiences already occurring before an attempt to notice experiences?

Is breathing naturally occurring before one decides to breath?

Rigpa is your current awareness that is already aware.

Now was that really so difficult?”


Just Sitting is the Only Point

Last night I announced and discussed with the group that I have recently resigned as a Soto Zen priest, profoundly concerned as I am with the directions the most prominent organizations of the tradition are taking it in this country. By request, I told folks I would post something here with links for the community, and fill out my reasoning a bit for those interested (if you’re not, I commend you. Please just keep coming to sit. That’s the only real point.) Specifically, I’m speaking about the intrusion and apparent triumph of radical political partisanship in our nascent religion, forcefully pushed by its most visible teachers and figureheads, without a peep of apparent dissent. Continue reading “Just Sitting is the Only Point”