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

Advertisements

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?”

CountyLineAutumn_0004hdr.exc_.den_.jpg

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”

Half Day reminder, 9/8/18

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 TODAY, September 8. 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 turbulent, often confusing 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.

img_2554

Half-Day Sit this Saturday, June 9

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 some of the Soto Zen tradition’s source texts. We continue working through Dogen’s wonderful short teaching essay, Fukanzazengi, his basic instructions for zazen practice. Please join us!

Our next half day sit is this Saturday, June 9. 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 turbulent, often confusing 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 dark 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.

Half Day May 12, Sundays update

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 some of the Soto Zen tradition’s source texts. In the last few months we’ve completed the Sandokai, the Hokyo Zanmei, and Hongzhi’s Guidepost for the Hall of Pure Bliss. Last week we started with Dogen’s first text written in Japan after his return from China, the Fukanzazengi, his basic instructions for zazen practice. Please join us!

Happily, tomorrow, Saturday, May, 12, we return to our monthly half-day sits.

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 dark 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.

Prow_Needle_cover_photo-Spring_2016