Shaolin Chan Retreat 08′- Monterey Ca

28 05 2008

Zanshin is a Japanese word meaning Reminding Heart or Mind. It is the name of the final position of the body in Kyudo ( Japanese archery) after releasing the arrow. When the mind is clear, the breath is slow and relaxed. The form has changed to formlessness, in a state that would be called Wu Wei 无为 in Chinese. At least as I understand it, for this case.

I found it interesting that after the intense training of Kyudo for prior week, my next training after discarding the form, and being left with the “Heart” is the formless training of Heart Chan retreat. Which in one part of the sessions we spoke and discussed the heart/mind.

The Heart Zen retreat was held in Monterey Ca at the Asilomar conference center. This complex on the state park grounds next to the ocean is the complete opposite to the the high mountain heat and rustic monastic life of the Sonoma Mountains training.

The weather was comfortable somewhat on the cool side, but still bearable with a light jacket. This time I shared a room with my cousins, & wife. No walking for a 1/8 mile uphill to use the bathroom. Also no 5:15am zazen, It was 6:30 a.m. this time, extra hour for sleeping…sweet. There was no official lights out at 9:30 however, we did not finish with the evening sessions and meditation until 9:00pm.

Friday was our first session, it was more of an introduction and welcome to everyone with some review and basic practice. We had games to play on a couple of occasions.

Sat. morning began the work, with meditation at 6:30am after some motion Zen drills. From there we moved to breakfast.

The meals we nice and well prepared. The service was good, and one lacked for nothing. The meals were time for real social talk. As we were a dining hall with several other groups, that part did not feel as intimate as last year with just our group eating together. We were placed in a smaller back room for the first couple of days. Which was nice than the front area we were in on the final days. It was a small thing though due to our human ability to tune out.

After lunch a short break, that was welcome. A short nap or walk was called upon to fill the spot.

Over the next couple of days we followed the same pattern. the grounds were interesting.

A mix of tress, sand and water.

Our next session were lectures on things such as Having a Perfect life ( Sat.) & Living in the Zone ( Sun.). Then a Break and followed with more meditation 30 minutes.

The next lectures
How to Cultivate Our own Spirit ( Sat.), How To Live a Fuller life ( Sun) .

These were followed by lunch.

Next after lunch we have Details of Heart Chan practice ( Sat. ) and Success Story – Zen in the work place.(Sun.)

This turned into one of the more popular topics and ended up carrying over into more time. After a short tea break we were treated to a play. Showing the origins of Shaolin Chan via Ta Mo ( Bodidharma) ( Sat.)

which was funny & very entertaining


and watched later A DVD of one of the Shifu’s lectures.

After our next break and chat time, we had question and answer time. We were fortunate to have a senior brother who had been with the Shifu for some 15 – 18 yr. I think it was, visiting and helping with the seminars operation. Along with several other seniors we had a treasure chest of first hand information available.

The different and sometimes amusing part of being part of this event is the lectures all have to be translated, Chinese to English or English to Chinese. Sometimes things were skipped or change, which got a laugh form those of us who could tell. We also had singing, & individuals experience sharing. Our sessions covered a large spectrum.

My only real disappointment was not learning more Motion Zen drills. However, that is just my thing, as my ministry as it would be called in Christian circles, of Ch’an ( Zen ) is through the Motion Zen. I did pickup two new drills.

One of which maybe be a great help to my shoulders for Tai Chi and Kyudo the other I know from Tai Chi practice, it was very familiar.

After dinner & a break, there were other discussions before our evening meditation at 8:30 and closing @ 9:00.

The nice thing for us about being in Monterey is our friends the Tokyo Deligation lives there. So on Friday and Sat after the session we went to visit them. Also met another intercultural couple who are friends of theirs. These may also become Zen students as an interest was expressed from them.

Sunday morning followed the same pattern for the most part as Friday and Sat. The morning lecture was a lecture and practice on Deep Reflection Meditation. A step up on our basic daily Chakra meditation.

The lessens I received form this event were different in a way that I can not put into a wordy story. I am pleased to have attended and grateful to my spiritual “brother & sister “ who made possible for my wife and I to attend without hardship.

I am delighted my wife was able to attended this year and even more so since she had her own breakthrough with her meditation and understanding of Chan. I am also grateful that my cousin and wife were able to spent some connecting before her relocation. They are more than just marriage relations, they are friends. Also that we got to share this together.

I was able to find some of the papers translated from Chinese to English on some of the Shifu’s lectures. I will be posting some from time to time, maybe. One of the things spoke on during the event was how Zen practice is beyond religion. One can be any religion as I stated before and still practice “Zen” It was also stated that Zen/Chan is also more than and beyond just a “life style” as it had become in the West and less formal in our lay practice than the rigors of Japanese styles. Our lay practice with the focus on connecting to the Chi of the Universe, for health, wisdom, cleansing, and enlightenment is the base of life. One does not have to give up, convert, or join anything in mind or heart to follow the path of Shaolin ( Heart) Chan or add it to their own spritural practice.

Some parts of last year’s retreat I did find more enjoyable, but it did not hinder me from enjoying were I was or being grateful for this year’s event. In many ways it was more enjoyable.

I will be reflecting and recalling lessons, feelings, sensations for several days. Sometimes the subconscious brings out wordless stored messages, lessons after the fact, after storing the substance first. Bring them up again like when I am writing this post. Sort of like a cow chewing it’s cud.

I did realize clearly how much of a natural course this Heart Chan is for me. I have studied Chi, for healing – Chi Gong, Protection – Kung Fu, for health – Tai Chi, for balance in one’s environment via Feng Shui

This covers the body and mind, so connecting to it’s use for enlightenment, spiritual development, mental and spiritual health is a natural progression.


Zen/Kyudo retreat – Zanshin ざんしん

28 05 2008

Zanshin ざんしん

Now that it s over I have found myself reflecting on different aspects of the adventure. When I was just getting started on day one and two. I thought to myself, well, it’s not as I thought it would be, but… I can do this! I can get through it no matter what. However I will not do this again. Partly because of our plans to go to Japan next year. Partly because I was not enjoying it. Now having completed the training.

I can see more of the value of the intensity. I would diffidently going again, with the right equipment. In fact I would like to go once more. I think it will be a good training for the Sail Passage. Yes, a week of Zen & Kyudo would be good mind and spirit training for a ocean passage. I’ll plan on working that into the schedule.

I believe this retreat qualifies as: Shigyo

Shugyo (修行) may be defined literally as “conducting oneself in a way that inspires mastery”. While the meaning of the kanji used in “shu” was originally translated as ‘using a brush to strike away the dust that obscures the viewing of a persons original elegance’, the combined kanji of “shu” and “gyo” (carrying out, walking along) is now generally translated as simply “severe or austere training”. The kanji rendered for this version of “shugyo” is most commonly associated with Buddhist asceticism, and most notably, the “shugenja” (修験者, ascetic mountain-dwelling monks).
When I read this I got a sense of what was to be. On many levels this was Severe or Austere training. As I look back I can see the overall connectiveness of the experience. It was a warrior retreat, unlike the heart zen retreat we just returned from. The underlying physical training was as intense as the spiritual. I am grateful to have been been able to attend. I see, feel, understand the link between the motion zen and sitting. Also how I want to run a retreat and the use of the sitting zen with the martial training. In my case it would be Tai Chi and Kung Fu.

Before I went on this retreat I purchased a book called “One Arrow, One Life- Zen, Archery, Enlightenment”. by Kenneth Kushner. I had planned on reading this during some free time , if there was some on this retreat. Now after attending the retreat I find the book resonates which the experience. The mind set of zazen carrying on to the mind set of a shot. The connection from grounding, to the release of the arrow. The alinement of the body with that of the bow , target, breath, arrow. The subtleties of the complementary nature of thought and action, movement and stillness. If fells in the gaps of the older book, “Zen and the art of archery”.

I see another one of these retreat as a great spirit training for my ocean passage. Even under ideal weather conditions this type of retreat with it’s, the structure, the subtile physical training, the mental forging, the connection to the earth, the release of ego in the face of something bigger is a challenge to spirit and body.

I am a bit sad that I will be unable, to attend more than one more in the future. However good things happen as well as bad, so only the Force knows about tomorrow I can only hope there is one an live where I am now and be grateful for the present.


Zen/Kyudo – Day V – Hanare はなれ

23 05 2008

はなれ – Hanare

When the alignment of Kai are completed, the tension grows until the string slips away from the gloved hand and the arrow looses itself towards the target...” One arrow One Life”…K. Kushner

It was finally the last day. Part of me was glad, I was ready to go home, yet I was also sad for things to end now that I found the flow and temp were normalizing.

I was one of the first today at the Zendo. The doors to the inner room were not even open yet. I did some warm ups and chi gong whist waiting. I was re-centered… finally. I had no care of the length of sitting. I looked forward to seeing and feeling the change of Yin air to Yang, the relm of the moon to the kingdom of the sun. Today I felt the chants not just said them. I heard and felt the tones, the vibrations, the chi of the voices. The prostrating was another form of moving Zen, it was the flow of kung fu movement, it was connecting to the earth chi, the source of this body from earth to earth.

We had our usual morning sessions then breakfast. This was our most simple meal since being here, Cherrios and Banana bread. I made the mistake of not tasting things first, and put brown sugar on the cereal…made it too sweet! yuck!  I did not want to waste food, so I sucked it up

That morning after breakfast our group’s work period was to pack and “leave no trace” That was one of the code words for our presence there the whole time. Meaning, leave no mess, cleanup after ourselves. That we did with mindfulness. Always reminded me of Carlos Castinata (sp), when I read that. That was his statement on the way of a warrior.

Now it is finally time for us to to do our final practice. We were suppose to give a demo to the residents there at the Zen center. It was done with full Kyudo formality. The only sad part was my small camera data disk was full, so I could not take a video of the shooting. There were some folks there taking video, a copy should turn up I can access. We practiced, and reviewed what we learned. It went well. Everyone was pleased to be shooting under more comfortable conditions.

Lunch was good! Veggie chili, Home made apple sauce and cornbread. It was good and hit the spot. It was our final meal there at the center. I raised a question from remark made at breakfast about how good food was after doing Zazen for 2 hours. I asked at which time does it taste best. After 2 hours Zazen or working in the Garden, room, etc? I suppose in true Zen sense, both would/should be equal as each moment , each sight, each breath, each taste, is new, fresh, magical, from Zen eyes, or tonge in this case.

The demo was nice, we looked like we really knew what we were doing. Myself and another guy did one type of two arrow, kneeling shooting, and the rest of the men’s group who were more experienced did another type. I was in charge of sitting the pace for my little section as the other guy was not comfortable with it. Great I’m new at it also. Ok, ganbattemasu! I set our pace to match the other group so we all looked in harmony through doing somewhat different things. It was not really hard, being use to following Kung Fu/Tai Chi movements. Many parts where the same as what we were doing, so when we hit those I set us to match them. I could not see it, but it felt good and correct.

I would really at some point just like to shoot a bunch, just stand and shoot some 20 or 30 arrows. That would give me a real sense of balance, timing, aim, etc.


Hard to believe week now as gone by, well over a week really. Tomorrow , the Lady Z will be heading out for a completely different Zen experience. Interesting, this one is next to the ocean and on the cool side. I am getting Yin and Yang in anther sense of Chi in this training period. I wanted to get this mostly done before I left. I have done so. I feel a sense of completion, of release ( Hanare). I will be adding the final entry Zanshin (Remaining Heart/Mind) for this after the holidays and our Heart Zen retreat in Monterey.

Whoa I just notice how that came out…. trippy, the remaining heart thing to heart zen

Mata Ne! またね

Sonoma Mtn Zen/Kyudo – retreat – day IV – かい

22 05 2008

Day 4 – Kai

Zazen to welcome the sun and wake my spirit. Since day one so far I have been almost the last to get to the Zendo. Today I was early, of sort and not almost breathless from Yuma-san ( the mountain) I had time to stretch and do some mini chi gong. I figured it will help the sitting. I find there are others doing it as well.

This was my best day, I feel normal today and the temp is more bearable. Still hot, but better. I must be adapting and it is getting cooler, relatively speaking from day ONE. Breakfast was the bomb, French toast, Roasted potatoes, fruit salad. OSHII !!

Lunch was also “bombalish”, as was dinner. In fact all the meals have been off the hook as they say.
I did my work period back in the garden pulling weeds. It was hot, I had no gloves or my missing bottle, but I dealt with what I could. It would have been nicer to start there earlier before the sun hit. Crawling around on the ground hands in the dirt, helping the plants. It is a different sense of connection with the earth.

I did a lot more shooting today. We learned targeting today. Sighting, hiting the target and the philosophy of it. One should hit the target, but not hitting hit does not make it a bad shot. Also practiced the kneeling form, Sumi again. It was good to get some real bow & target time in.

I have gotten in the rhythm of the Zazen sessions , even though still hecka-long. It is the second one that is the kicker. All in all it is not so bad, I heard of all nighters they have. Broken up into section, but still…

I have adjusted by really focusing on my Chakras, and taking advantage and grateful of this time to do so. That is the whole point of doing this retreat and practice. Even taking a break internally from doing that and just drifting at times, when it happens, then coming back to Chakras. Feeling Physically better helped… no duality

I was feeling well enough today after practice to go through my Tai Chi Palm sword set. On the back deck of the Yurt. Te view was great , but the deck was not comfortable. Now I’m thinking tonight after lights out I will do some Chen tai chi and sword again in the lower parking lot, Lil Kyoto, before taking a shower. I should be able to sleep much better. I did sleep better last night , but not perfect , but better.

I am writing earlier today , I have a bit of a break, before I just took naps today… I am alive 🙂
Now it is time to get back to shooting. I will write more later tonight before bedding down.

I had a treat today, I got some ice from the freezer when another student did it before me and we had a really cold drink , Yummmmmm. I have been lusting after one for days. It will be the first stop once this is over a large COLD COLD apple juice. Ahhh simple pleasures, great joy.

After all the sessions today, I did go to the lower parking lot to practice my Tai Chi and play my flute. I have figured out the routine here now and what I can do. I was surprised to see someone else there already practicing Tai Chi. This was a guy who had flown in from Texas. We had spoke a little before about his study of Wu style in Aston, Tx. I quietly watched for a while then, found my own spot away from him, with my back turn to give him and mysef a sense of privacy and started my Chen practice and Chi Gong.

The moon was almost full , it was cool enough to be comfortable. I practiced a bit before, playing a bit of flute in the darkness and the dog in the distance answering me . I really could not get into my flute playing since I was worried about disturbing anyone with my late night playing. So I only played for a short while before going to the bath house for a shower and finally finish this.

Sonoma Mtn Zen/Kyudo – Retreat – Day III

21 05 2008

Day 3

Today I , er, my illusional transportation vessel, my body feels almost normal today. :-)… I must be adapting. The lower temp helped. I think it was only 90 today. This is still not fun, but this is livable. I have worked out in Kung Fu seminars with this temp. One can function with some effort. Hmm how is this different. Length I guess would be the number one thing. Hmm er, well beside the Spiritual training that is. Walking the Mountain would be the same as jumping around with weapons for time on end, or stances or a thousand kicks and punches, that sort of thing. Horse stance equal to Garden weeding…If you have a tool, weapons training… ahh, I know, cold water! the access is easy and plenty. Anyway onward…
Today I , er, my ilustional transportation vessel, my body feels almost normal today. 🙂

We started Zazen as usual @ 5:15 am!! YUK!!! 5:15 until 7:00 !!!! then breakfast.
I really dislike these long Zazen session. Like one dislikes taking a medicine. You know it will do you good, but it has a bitterness about it. Oh well, Yosh~

A 4O min sitting , then 15 min walk then another 30 min sitting, then chanting, then prostrating… I dislike that part the most…really Mostly because they do it like it is a race. There maybe a reason, but I do not know it. I’m feeling it maybe something to do with throwing away ego, being humble. If one is racing to be the first or fastest to throw away their ego. Isn’t that still ego? Now to be clear I do not dislike doing the zazen, just the l – o – n – g ones. That is because of my own weakness of mind and spirit… and laziness. Not wanting to fight, (make love not war) beyond the discomfort of aches and pains of sitting for a long periods. 30 min is good for me. I’m cool with that. Yes, I know, one must push themselves, go that extra 5 min in stance training, use that little stronger Yumi ( bow). Also sitting here is a breeze for a long times over that of my Ch’an practice who do not use cushions! It really is luxury when thinkning about it. I can endure, stillness. Find that calm in the storm….demon attacks…aches pains

I do feel though am getting more into the flow of the Zazen sessions here now. The sittings do not seems quite so long. I can follow the words on the written out for the chants.

The 5:15 am thing is still unpleasant but…Shikatanei…it cannot be help…. it’s good training. I am during one period of sitting, noticing we sit in darkness to light and light to darkness. We awake with the sun and life of the day. We turn turn Yang nature ( working) as does our part of the land, we are in harmony with the moment. That this dojo has a strong Zen practice intergrated awareness is one one of the main draws for me.

Breakfast was good today for me. I had cream of wheat with some fruit in it and some homemade Banana Walnut bread!! Sugoi oshii!!.
I have been noticing I am almost sick with hunger and in pain before breakfast and before lunch. I tried eating a bit of protein bar before morning zazen. Eating it made me feel ill slightly so I ate only a couple of bites. It worked somewhat but was so painful a few minutes later and dry at the time. I rather deal with the pure hunger pain than ones from a small amount of snack. I would have been better if I a drank alot of water like I generally do first in the morning…but…then there is the lack of freedom to just get up and answer natures call…
So a mouth full of water only…
Another thing I am noticing is I am almost sick when eating at first when I first start a meal. I see others just dig in. Me, I have to eat slowly or i’ll be sick. I do not want to eat much because of the heat, but I know I need to eat something. So I eat slowly…of my choices. I miss any seconds 🙂
Good training to eat less…sigh.

Today and last night I was on kitchen detail. Not bad, it makes things go faster with a bunch of us doing it. It also gives one the sense of a “wa” groupness. One also gets to interact with the residents..feeling non-duality. From there it is one hour of work practice. I am on gardening duty.

Pulling onions, weeds, lettuces, etc. It was kind of fun, kind of, it reminded me of the days in Virginia with my grandmother. If I had the proper gear, it could have been enjoyable. I wished for my gloves and to be starting before the sun was where it is, knee pads…
All the meals are great here part of the reason is alot of things are from the garden!!! The veggies are all organically grown here, one can really taste the favor and the freshness. The other is the chef and I think the chi that goes into the life here from the earth to the people back to the earth.

I’m really liking the feeling of being here in the Mountains with all the Redwoods, and Pines. It has been a while since I connected with the earth and trees, it was good. I had always enjoyed being in the woods as a child. The wooded path next to the Zendo reminds me of a Japanese forest. When walking around in my Kyudo gear of feel a real sense of old Japan in my mind…

well, other than the redwoods, but just imagining things, in old Japan. In a mountain forest walking to some village or shrine. A few
fancifully moments of simple fun.

Today was cooler, THANK GOD, so more people were into shooting today. I learned the kneeing form and also the weight of Yumi ( bow) that works well for me. It is interesting listening to Oniisan (older brother) speak on the relationship with Zen practice and Kyudo. Which is one of the things I enjoy about doing Kyudo with this group is the Zen practice connection as I’ve said before. Not just some abstract concept but real practice integration. I wished could have taped some of it. In one of the chats with another guy. We spoke on the “other” school I had spoke with in Emeryville and thought the teacher had a poor attitute for a instructor. This guy, I was speaking with said the instructor guy told him. If he wanted to study Kyudo as a Martial Art then , his group was the place to be. If one wanted the Spiritual Kyudo, Kyudo as meditation then our school was the path. For me I wanted both. But really more of the Zen Kyudo. I do not really care much for the “sport” chi. There was a Lady from LA with our group who also studied with the “ other “ style in LA. She was content to do both. I want knowledge from the other style for the rank and affiliation I can get and use in Japan. hmm kind of like taking up golf for business. The current style is purely about me learning, shooting and Zen.

Tao Mo says, “do not be attached, even to which is the “correct way” of Zen practice.”

Whaa hoo , Yatta! Here is something few think about or would expect to hear here. I figured out, today how to pee with out having to take off the Hakama. Very helpful with as much water as I have been drinking. Up until then I had to take all the ties and knots loose. Not something that can be done quickly when I HAVE to GO!!! Sometime it would take five minutes just to untie stuff so I could answer the call. I had to plan ahead. Anyway I figured it out. Omedeto Zen-kun!

I have been in desire of some ICE COLD something to drink. Today we had it at lunch! OMG!! I had several cups from the four pieces of ice I had in my first cup! It was sooo good and refreshing. That is one of the first things I plan on doing once back in a town. Get a large bottle of something COLD and a little sweet. Maybe some Apple juice, just thinking about it …Mmmmm. Simple pleasures , can bring great joy…

I slept better last night, not still not great, but better. I hope I can do better tonight.. Small steps are ok. I guess overall considering a lack of sleep, the heat, the altitude and terrain, being out of shape for this, hungry, and in some kind of pain… I’m dong ok. This is a warriors retreat…Banzai!

We just finished dinner, it is now break time. Zazen will start in 30 min. 7:30 to 9:00!!! Crimany! 🙂 There will be lights out 30 min. from that point. Evening zazen is nicer in some way. Maybe because I do not have to walk up a hill in the dark at O-dark :10 in the morning, half asleep. Evening Zazen is a settling chi, the fading from sight of the trees, light to dark, shades and beams of colors, dimming…finally darkness and Yin chi settles on our world space.

Sonoma Mtn Zen/Kyudo – retreat…day II

21 05 2008

Day II

I am feeling lousy today!! I did not sleep much last night. I am not use to going to bed at 9:30 p.m.. Folks snoring… and SOOOO bloody hot!!. The wind pickup major last night most of the shade stuff we set up yesterday in the lower range was blown down today. It took a lot of repairs and re-setting to get things back to a usable place.

I got up at 4:20 A.M.!, ( yeah that is O-dark: 20) the others got up at 4:45a.m. We had Zazen at 5:15am !!! Sugoii ! sigh , ok, this is training…

It was LONG maybe 40 min zazen, then walking meditation, then another 30 min of sitting. Next chatting and prostrating (my least favorite). Things seemed to go on forever. YUK!!! I was feeling bad, hungry, tired and , even a little sick. I could relate to the Buddha being attacked by demons Yuk!! Again.

All this time the wind is kicking! As bad as it was and was going to be for getting things setup , it did help with the heat. I could tell already it was a going to be another day of being forged like the tip of a war arrow.

We had breakfast @ 7:00 am . Finally finally, However…All I had was a fruit salad. I do not like hate Oatmeal and eggs, So I passed on all but the fruit. Alright so here was another challenge. Make it to lunch time with only a big bowel of fruit to eat, and walking up and down mini mountain. We had short break after breakfast. Afterward we had to reset all the handy work, targets and shade we setup before on the lower shooting range, Let’s call it Lil Kyoto. Hot and in a valley of sorts. Everyone pulled together and we repaired and reset the handy work also put up the second shade for shooting Distance targets. The upper level, “Lil Edo” was for short distance, Makawara shooting. Lil Kyoto was for distance.

Finally Around 10:00 am we got ready for Kyudo…Wha hooo!
We all changed into our Kyudo gear and made our way to Lil Edo for the opening. It looked to be some 15 of us. Some new faces I had not seen, which means nothing and the old faces. Mostly everyone was friendly or at least cordial. They are a good group.

After bowing in and a couple minutes of settling the mind we began. She who does not speak was called for the first demo, whilst Onii-san gave a short talk.

Everyone got their gear on and ready & we had it.

I got a few shots in to activate the memory cells. It is a matter of constant body checks at this point for me. Remembering corrections, advice, breath, shoulder drop, expand chest, emptiness. Being “there’ being connected, yet being unattached. Flowing from yin to yang, yang to yin, big to small…release

The sun was still a bit low for the sun shade to fully cover the morning shoot area. It could have been worse. One had shade on most of the body but not on one foot, which got smoked. Anyway after a few shots, I gave up my spot so another could get a turn.
The master in Japan had said learning is part practice and part watching. I had heard “D” Onii-san say a similar statement. I found a shade spot and threw myself zen-mindfully into the watching practice part…did I say it was getting hotter?

The wind was still up, but it helped because it was HOT again today! 100 degrees or so by the end of the day. I came up with a good idea, brilliant idea of using a old windex bottle filled with water as a mister, that was nice!! A few gave me looks, and a chuckle, but then when I misted them, the smirk turned to ahhhhhhhh 🙂 that feels good!!! Do me again!
I took it easy as did most people. Everyone was moving slowly, drinking lots of water & cool ( sort of) barley tea. I was wishing for some nice cold green tea. I also took advantage of the fact the bath house was the COOLEST place to be located. I took a short much needed nap on the bench in there during a break…simple pleasure, can hold great joy.

I felt grateful to locate it. Gratitude is part of the Zen Tao. So I accepted the gift of the space and as with Zen principals, I enjoyed it fully and was grateful. It was not that comfortable sitting there and even more so laying there, but much more comfortable than roasting in the Tent ( oh, called a Yurt) or some other location that I knew of there. Most other resting places were like mini ovens. Especially the Tent! Good grief! There where several who took multiple cool showers during the day. I had even for a brief moment considered, bring my sleeping bag here or at least a cushion where I could sit and type this stuff.

Another LONG Zazen session tonight. Of course that is only in my mind, because I have not over come the “time” thoughts, or heat. I really do not like those long sessions… yet any way. Tomorrow I will not wear a robe to meditation. A shirt will give me one less distraction to deal with while sitting, and not cook so much. Bummer I did not bring my light robe. It did not really matter to anyone, but me. I did not feel proper dressed for here. I got over it. Clothing, robe, no robe, like standing or sitting, legs crossed on a cushion or hanging off a chair it does not matter. This part is about the spirit.

The style of Zen practiced here is more religious in form than I care for personally. Very ceremonial, which the Japanese love to do. So when in Rome Nihon… , I got comfortable and flowed into the local favors.
The chanting can be cool. I can get into the rhythm of the chants. I do have to remain mindful not to do a harmony and trip around with counter notes. It is a Musician thing.
During walking Zen period I did a modified Tai Chi walk. It felt like the the place for it to me. The mind is the same though the body maybe different, yet as all things are connected, it fit. I wonder if that is waht is was orginally a part of Tao Mo’s 18 motion zen drills. I have now taken to look at the posturing as another form of motion Zen, body Zen practice, up and down, up and down, breath…

It is cooler tonight, a bit! The temps are suppose to get down to 65 degrees, NICE I can sleep…hopefully! I was going to go to the Bath house and write this tonight… but… It is already cooler somewhat and I’m beat, the heat drained me, walking up and down the hill. To do anything, to go anywhere, once must embrace the mountain!

Coming from a Shaolin Zen foundation, we have the mind , body , spirit balance thing going on, or try to. Here in this training it is more Mind and Spirit. However, they have I decide, their own body training path here… the Mountain. Having to walk all over it, IS the body training another from of motion Zen.

Sooo sleep time! Even if I wake up later in the night. I’m thinking to myself as I turned in @9:00pm!

Just as I thought correctly, I did awake several times. Not because of the snoring that sounded like it was right at the head of my bed. Not because of the major pain in my shoulder and back, I’d been having for a month, nor having to go to the loo from so much warm water drinking all day. Nope, … well all of that plus…I was still adjusting to the “newness”

I had however made it through 2 days. I am getting a little better controlling monkey mind jumping to the how many more days left count down. Yes, as Shisuk would say, this is training, it is not suppose to be fun. However , I think, with a Zen mind it can be… perspective! This is what I am thinking when I’m suffering. As any Zen master would say, there is no tomorrow, next week, there is only NOW…this shot, this arrow. Anything else is a delusion. Stay connected, but not attached… The biggest hurtle to shooting, to relaxing into the flow of things is the Heat. Did I say it was hot again today?

Sonoma Mtn Zen/Kyudo retreat…day 1

20 05 2008

Well it was finally here, I had planned and saved for this event for a year. I had to go at least once. Although things were not perfect, the Universe worked out so I could attend with a clear mind about cost.

I had only a small idea of what to expect, it was to be an adventure, lessons in Zen, Kyudo, and myself.

I was packed and ready…Yosh!!

Day 1:
Intermediate and advance students were to arrive @10:00 am to help with the setup. It 10:15 and I was just leaving the house. I had planned on being there @10:00 but…things happen.

I figured, few would be on time, it would not take all day to setup, we would all day to do it.

Anyway after getting a sandwich & water for lunch, which turned out to be a WISE move and some gas I headed out. It was about 1.5 hr drive to Sonoma Mountain from the East Bay. I was on the road by 11:00 am it was already 80 plus degrees…it was going to be hot! Generally it is cooler in the Mountains, so I had packed more cool weather clothing than hot for that reason…wrong move.

I drove through the wine county up into the mountains, it was a nice drive, Pines, Redwoods, Elms, Grape Vines, the winding Mtn. road, the 325i & I loved it.

I got about 1 set of numbers ( addresses) from the Zen Center and the road ended…washed out! Doh!! I had heard it was out but the directions from Google did not show it. At the damage site I got out an walked across the fallen road after seeing someone on the other side.

It had been from a big storm a couple of years ago, but I did not know just where the road was damaged even through I had heard it was out. Now I know. I got directions from a local and set up to find the long way around on another road. That is after I took a break in the shade for a little bite to eat.

Finally I arrive, some 2 hours later than planned.

The upper target shooting area had already been setup,

they were now in the lower section…it was HOT!! In the 90’s now or more. It was going to be a miserable weekend, temps in the 100. YUK! I like heat but within reason.

I helped with what I could, then settled in to my space. I was staying in a big round tent like structure. There were 10 mattress in a circle around the edge of the tent. This was a first for me, that I recall of this many co-bunkers.

I was never in the service, so this type of group sleeping was new for me. I prepared myself mentally for the task ahead. As it turned out, it was not full the first night there were only three of us. By Thursday there was only 4, there were other guys with the group, but they had other sleeping arrangements. The Ladies had similar arrangments , but their tent was smaller.

Dinner finally came at 6:00 p.m., I was so tired from the heat and walking up and down , up & down the hill from the dorm to the shooting space, to the parking lot, to the kitchen. Whewww. The bath house was nice.

Only 4 years old. Private stalls, I was expecting a group boys room shower, but no. There were two bathing stalls, one with a tub, and a chair, shower. The other with just a shower.

Dinner was great veggie soup, some greens from the garden,

Couscous (sp) grain, cold herb tea. I had a big sandwich earlier also with the heat I was not that hungry.

Coming out of the dinner room I am crossing the bridge and I’m about to step over a stick on the path… The Zen sense goes off, I pause before the next step. Good thing…oh snap! the stick moves… it a snake! Next on the path to the tent there are deers they heading the other way from me…at speed. As I get closer to the tent yet more visitors a couple of wild turkeys…I’m in nature for real… feels good on a different level, even through I am feeling “off”

It is now 7:15 I’m back in the tent. I was sooo bored I figured to write so here I am. Doing my first dorm room blog. I had no idea if I would have time to do anything. I have my laptop, a book and my flute. After reading through the schedules, it looks like I will have 30 min to 1 hour of un-schedule time for myself a day…

The bell is ringing it is time for Zazen in the Meditation Hall…

Bells signal events here at the Zen Center just like a traditional Temple. The Meditation Hall is a converted barn. It is nicely done. The is a 12ft tall standing statue of Kuan Yin inside entrance in the Zendo.
After 40 min sitting, I was suffering. I was sweating like a pig, there was a fly buzzing my head and my back hurt and it was HOT! Every breeze felt like a gift form God. It was a difficult session to sit and focus.
Then a lecture afterward on standing Zen & Kyudo carrying the sitting Zen into motion. Also about slowing down and lastly about feeling comfortable with others, and why certain times are for silence as there were periods of no talking in the center.

I’m already looking forward to this being over! This is not a good thing though. I will need to ganbatte! I know it is good training, but the heat is brutal. It really puts a damper on thing, also I’m as had been said in the lecture, am not that comfortable with all the newness. This will be a challenge for me on several levels.

Ganbatte Zen-Kun!


Sunday Zen

12 05 2008

I went to Zen practice today. It was the first since the Shifu’s visit. Week after next is our retreat, nice. Anyway back to here I digress.
Today there was a long time practitioner visiting from Taiwan. She has been doing Zen for 13 yrs I think she said. She gave a talk in the beginners class, which I missed, she did not want to just repeat the same for the advance session, so I missed the full story. What I got was that she had some kind of illness that the Shifu helped her with, when no one else could/would do anything. She was very sceptical in the beginning, until she witness her own change.

What she did in our session was just a short talk on choosing a Shifu and remembering our reasons for studying Zen in the first place so, we would not fall off the track, which can be easy to do. More so if your living a good, easy life. This cause me to think about my reasons for starting Shaolin Zen practice and why I chose this Style.

In a sense this style choose me. I am pleased with this style of Zen, because it for me, unlike some others covers the three levels of life, of our existence here. Physical, Mental and Spiritual. It is the missing link in my Shaolin training.  As I said this style chose me. When the student is ready the teacher will come.

a visit

11 05 2008

As I said before in another recent post, but on the other site, we do not have many visitors. This Sat we had guests over for lunch. This is a couple we met at and Islanders event. She is from Osaka, he is retired from working here in the Bay.
We met them at the last gathering we had heard they were moving to Japan,, once married. However they were still looking for a place to live. Anyway, they were getting married and figuring out where to live.

It was kind of disappointing to meet them now just before she was going back to Japan, so we would not get to hang with them other than lunch on Sat.

Lady Z had prepared a great lunch for us. We had a nice visit. The girls got to speak in detail to each other and even better in “Oska bin”. Over all we spoke of many things, including living in Nihon, food and even a bit of zen.

It was a pleasant short visit as they were off to visit his brother 2 hours away.

Yet all is not as it seems… I find out afterward they are not the lovey engaged couple we thought. He has not popped the question officially, and her parents, although she is long past 21 yr, do not want her with a forigener and do not know about him. She was here taking classes for 3 months is the story. I did not know that was still a thing with Japanese, marrying a foreigner. I thought is was pretty much accepted. I guess not, some of the old ways still live in Nihon.

Zen Mtn Kyudo

10 05 2008

I received the schedule for Sonoma Mtn Kyudo. Finally it is almost here. I have been waiting for this! I had wanted to attend this last year but could not. I saved since then to attend this year. It is not that costly but when one is watching funds…I’ll say no more. Then the timing, with the Heart Zen retreat next week, How was I going to pull of both? It is a blessing several things worked out so I could attend both. I guess the Force wants me in training. and training it is…wakeup @ 4:45 brutal!!!!

As for the schedule, OMG! There is no free time that I can see. Day or night, everything is planned out. When can I do my Tai Chi , reading, play my flute, take Pictures, update my blog! Sigh, Well it is not a vacation, it is a learning trip for mind, body, spirit. It is training. Shisuk says all the time, training is not suppose to be fun. It is training! You want fun go to the Gym. This is Martial Art.


Wed. May 14 intermediate/advanced students only)

10 am arrival to help set up venue ( what no lunch!!)
6:00-6:40 dinner
6:45-7:30 zazen instruction with Shinko for Kyudo students
7:30-9:00 zazen (Introductory talk )in Zendo Hall 9:30 lights out

Thurs May 15-Sat.May 17

4:45am wake-up
5:15-7:00 morning zazen and service in the Zendo Hall
7:00-7:30 >breakfast (all meals in the Sangha House)
7:30-8:00 kitchen cleanup for
assigned crew (4 Kyudo students + 1 SMZC resident)
8:15-9:15 silent work practice
9:30-11:45 Kyudo
12:00-12:45 lunch
12:45-1:15 kitchen clean-up for assigned crew>
1:30-5:00 Kyudo
5:00 pm Beginner students arrive>6:00-6:40 dinner>6:45-7:15 kitchen cleanup for assigned crew Thursday only
6:45-7:30 zazen instruction for beginner students
7:30: Introductory talk for Beginners–location to be announced
7:30-9:00 evening zazen
9:30 lights out

Sun. May 18th

4:45am wake-up
5:15-7:00 morning zazen
7:30-8:00 kitchen cleanup
8:15-9:15 work practice (packing and cleaning of living area)
9:30-11:00 Kyudo
11:00-11:30 Tosha( Closing kyudo demonstration)
11:30-12;00 Closing remarks.
12:15-1:00 lunch
1:00 tear down of venue
2:30 departure Zen Mtn Kyudo