Valle Con Dios

People say that practicing Zen is difficult, but there is a misunderstanding as to why. It is not difficult because it is hard to sit in the cross-legged position, or to attain enlightenment. It is difficult because it is hard to keep our mind pure and our practice pure in its fundamental sense. The Zen school developed in many ways after it was established in China, but at the same time, it became more and more impure. But I do not want to talk about Chinese Zen or the history of Zen. I am interested in helping you keep your practice from becoming impure.
-Shunryu Suzuki, the first lines of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Hi all,

just a quick note to say that we’ve had our last (quite well attended) half-day and Sunday night sits of 2018. We plan to pick up back in 2019 at an unspecified date, to be announced. We’re all heading into the holidays, and I personally have a lot going on, as I know many of you do, too. It’s been over 4 1/2 years since starting the Valley Dragon experiment. I’ve missed only a handful of weeks in that time, essentially insuring this practice opportunity as a service to the community and a sign of personal commitment to zazen. We started with a great deal more formality, basically practicing in the “high church” Soto Zen style of San Francisco Zen Center. Piece by piece, I’ve felt inspired to question each element, pitching most of them as distractions from ordinary people’s access to simply just sitting – the only real point. There appears to be a pretty good consensus on what we’ve arrived at: a bow here and there, some bells, some sitting, some walking, some chatting. No more, no less.

I wouldn’t have begun without the assistance of co-founder Joe Galewsky, under the titular guidance of more senior practice leaders elsewhere – though between us Joe and I have well over a half century of dedicated Zen practice, and it really all just came down to us and the regulars who attended. As documented previously, I’ve subsequently felt the pressing need to separate myself and the practice here from larger affiliating organizations because I found that these groups became dominated by certain radical political ideologies and activities I wasn’t comfortable with, and that I consider pretty un-Zen. In part due to this developing distinction, we will be dropping the Valley Dragon appellation moving forward. I don’t have a new name in mind, and little desire to “rebrand”. I feel like the Valley Dragon experiment has developed sufficiently in a direction distinct from its genesis that in 2019 we will go by a different name, maybe one just related to where it is we practice, Dragonfly Yoga Studio. Also, the term “dragon” continues to have some negative baggage for a lot of folks. In Asia, dragons are lucky. Americans mostly have other associations. No need to swim upstream with this one, especially since the reason for using ‘dragon’ in the first place related to the group having associations with other temples that are no longer meaningful. Look for an email or stay tuned to this website for further news; it will remain in use for now.

Thanks to everyone who has attended our over 500 combined hours of shared zazen. I never sat alone, and our headcount has averaged about 12 over our 1/2 decade span. For a drop-in weekly zazen group, without anyone calling themselves master, guru, or teacher, I think these are actually quite impressive numbers! Also, thanks to everyone for cash donations, the last few months of which have just been given to Dragonfly in thanks for the use of the space, as we’ve tended to do about quarterly. Keep on sitting, friends, and seeking truth. Hope to see you next year!

If you’re looking for another Zen sitting group in the meantime, I recommend Mike Haederle’s northvalleyzen.org. I might see you there sometime. Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of assistance. My personal email is titusobrien@gmail.com. Cheers!

Titus

happy trails.jpg

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