The HeartZen Experience

11 02 2007

Pink lotus

I believe that God/The Universe/The Force will put/lead you where you need to be…

The plan for Sat was as follows; Berkeley Zen Center for morning practice, then over to the Flea market to get some gifts from Erica the soap lady to take to Japan. Next stop over to Oakland to this very good little Sushi shop for lunch. Then back to Berkeley to the Sho Chi Ku Bai factory for some saki tasting. Finally returning home where I would head over to Sisook’s Tailor shop to help him some. That was the plan I had for a couple of weeks. Reality went much different.

I had communicated with a couple of people from the HeartZen practice (American Zen Assoc.) I was informed there was a practice this Sat in Freemont, which is about 40 mintues from me. I informed them I would not be able to attend do to other commitments. So it was my plan to attend the following Sat.

On Friday while doing or just before doing some Zazen it came to me, that it would be more sensible to go to the HeartZen Session on this Sat. Next Sat. I needed to go to Sifu’s for New Years banquet, which is in Campbell another 40 min from Fremont. It is much later than the session so I could not go from one to the other, I would need to return home, then go back past Fremont to go to Sifu’s. Also it was going to be raining on Sat, so no Flea market. So I spoke with Lady Z about it, in case she was really looking forward to lunch and all in Berkeley. She said she was fine with it. She may or may not go to the HeartZen session, she may just want to rest.

I had told her about the HeartZen session several days earlier. I sent her and email with a Japanese Translation of one of the webpages. She was not impressed just glancing at the translation and seeing words like Namaste and chakara when speaking of Zen which in her mind is Japanese. Now she did not have a large understanding of Zen’s history or the depth of Zen (Chan) practice. She thought it maybe some “cult” thing because the person used Namaste, which is an Indian word while speaking of a Japanese Buddhist practice. I can relate to her feelings having looked at some of the pictures of the “master” and coming from the hippie 60’s and hollywood and being around for over half a century, I’ve seen “things”. However I read further and knowing about PR and photography I let my inner sense go beyond just the photos. After some explaining on my part and major researching on her part she began to understand more. HeartZen is a practice from the American Zen Assoc. main branch in located in South Ca. and classes are held at UCLA. This in turn is a sub-branch of the Taiwan Zen Buddhist Assoc. The “Master” is from the Renzei sect of Zen Buddhist, this is also the same sect as the Sailing Zen Priest we are meeting in Japan is from… She researched this branch of Zen and read the difference between Sato and Renzei and started to become excited. Yes, she say, this is more my way of thinking. Then she read more of the HeartZen practice and format on instruction. Again yes, she says this is just what I was talking about. I like how it is explained in detail about how to do this, why to do this and the emphases on breathing correctly as the foundation. I want to go she says we can start at the same level together. However on Sat she decides she was too tired and would go to the next one. I would be the scout.

ok, so much for the filler background… Friday night we went to the Dinner (yum yum yum). While at the bridal shop waiting for everyone, Simo asks me about some graphic things she is having problems with. I tell her I’ll stop in on Sat, since I had to go to Fremont, I’ll come by afterward.

Sat morning. I call Erica the soap lady and cancel our appointment and change to next week. I had arranged to meet her at her home since it was going to be raining. She says that is better because she got called to do something for her chruch and it would be a big pressure to do it and still meet me. Perfect for both of us. (The force at work)

I go by Sisook’s in the morning for a couple of hours to help him, from there I head to Fremont. The practice is held in Fremont Library, the group uses a room there for the meditations. I find out later that there will be no more sessions until about 4 weeks as the meeting room is booked and unavailable. It is good that I came that day instead of waiting. ( The force at work)

The session itself was pleasant. I felt comfortable spiritually and mentally. Everything was explained clearly. The whole practice felt much more spiritual than religious. No robes, chanting, shaved heads, walking around looking un-happy etc. also no large cushions, we sat on rubber mats. That was the only bummer, uncomfortable after using Zafus 🙂

I sat through the beginners session afterward there was a small Q& A session. When the instructor found out I could speak some Chinese she started to explain the practice in Chinese since almost everyone there was Chinese. However since I was struggling with that she switched back to English.

We talked for a while, about my background and we spoke of why I was on the path and the similar things of the practice to my Chi Gong. I was invited to stay for the advance session, I was told they would speak more of Spiritual matters in that session. Since I understood the basics I would be ok going to that one. It was suggested that I may find the beginning class boring, I explained Lady Z would be coming next time and I would go through basics with her. As with Kung Fu one is never to advance to review basics and streathen ones foundation.

Moving on…

I stayed for the advance class and found it interesting, they spoke of the 5 Spiritual poisons (Greed, Anger, Infactuation, Pride, Suspicion) and avoiding them. Then we did a 20 min Meditation. That was the hardest part for me. My legs were killing me. I had a few SHORT moments of being in the “zone” but most of my efffort was in not moving and ignoring the pain in my legs from sitting with no cushion and thereby being flat on the floor surface not raised as in Sato style. That will take some getting use to. I was told I could use a small cushion but it is better to had the body level and use a three part support of the body, like what is given in full lotus. I will need to stretch and practice. That just saved me 30 dollars I was going to spend buying a zafu (meditaion cushion in Japan. Which I will can use to pay for the parking ticket I got later at Simo’s)

I digress…After the meditaion period, they broke off into small groups and people shared events and advances they had in their practice / lives. I was unable to stay for that as it was getting late and I promised Simo I woud come by to help her. The whole experience was positive I left with a much better feeling than I did with any of the other sessions Lady Zen and I have attended so far. When I was leaving one of the elders signaled me to call him later that evening.

I did once I got home. I told Lady Z about everything she was excited, this is waht I was looking or this is what felt was missing from the other places we went to, this for me is the path. After a bit a called the elder…We had a nice chat about the HeartZen practice, Philosophy, etc, he answered a question Lady Zen had and a couple I had and invited us to come to the next session once it was arranged. One of the things he said to me was, that the Abbot from the Shaolin Temple in China visited the “master” in Tawain. The abbot told him this “HeartZen” was what was missing from the Modern Shaolin Practice. I had said earler to the group there was a void in my Shaolin studies I wanted to fill.

It was good experience…when the student it is ready, the teacher will come.




3 responses

13 02 2007

Just to say something… I’ve put your picture with the big bamboo and the small white flowers on my computer’s desktop… it makes me feel zen from the start!

15 02 2007
Sean M. Madden

Dear Zen,

Just a brief note to say thank you for having visited, and for linking out to us. We’ve also enjoyed reading about you and Lady Zen via your blogs, and would like to spend some time with you both one day. But, at present, you’re living in the Bay area, and we’re in England.

Your planned adventure to sail to Japan sounds marvelous. Any idea when you’ll be casting off for distant shores?

Thank you, again, for your interest in Mindful Living Guide. We’ve added a link out to your site as well, as we intend to stop by and continue reading.

For now, however, I leave you with a bow …

Mindfully yours,


15 02 2007
Becky J

Nce read. I enjoyed your post and visited the Heart Zen site. Thanks!
Hugs, Sis

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