This Sesshin was Wonderlfully Done

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Rohatsu Day 6


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Good morning. Day six. Can you believe it? Yes, some people can. It's a beautiful day. This session, at least from my perspective, started with such a deep silence right from the very beginning. And I have to say that the servers have been inspired. I mean, right from day one, they looked like they'd been working at this for a year. They're so coordinated. In the first day, Sojin spoke about flexibility and proficiency as aspects that get developed in Sushi. He also mentioned something about actualizing the fundamental point.


And that seemed to raise questions for people. I had the opportunity to speak with people in practice discussion that day. And one of the people I spoke with said, what is that exactly, actualizing the fundamental point? How does one know when one is actualizing the fundamental point? And the next day, a note appeared on the bulletin board for me that said, not from the same person, if you don't mind sharing, what are you aiming to get out of Sashin this year? Which is, It could be a trick question, but I don't think it is. I think it's a slippery question, though. I think there's an interesting path to hue between setting an intention and having a gaining idea or a fixed notion about what's supposed to happen.


which you then can evaluate your progress against later to see if it actually did. It's falling. Is that better? Yeah, maybe, okay. But it did get, all of that got me to thinking about sushins and my experience with sushins and what they are for. And I remembered my first sushin, which was here, somewhere in the mid-90s. It was during the period of time when I was... I sort of thought of myself as somebody who lurked around this place. I didn't actually... I managed to get in the door without ever going through any kind of orientation. So... I was clueless for a long time. And especially at the first Sashinan. I didn't know anyone.


I spoke to no one, of course. It was a three-day session, as I remember. And I'm actually touching my chin there. Afterwards, I summarized my experience to myself that no one knew my name. And that was how I experienced the silence. That's what the silence meant to me. And fully a half-dozen years later, in my very first way-seeking mind talk, I confessed that that was my first feeling about Sashin. And Baika, who was a resident here and priest, for several years after that, every time she saw me, she would go, hello, Mary Drie. I said to prove she knew my name. And then a half a dozen years after that, I was a newbie Sashin director.


I was being oriented by Jake, who produced this incredible cheat sheet of directions, five pages long, which I want to talk a little bit about the underbelly of Sashin. And so I had access to all the notes of prior Sasheen directors in the office, a kind of treasure trove of notes and rosters. And there was one roster that I picked up that had everybody's name on it. And then in handwritten on the upper right-hand corner, it said problems underlined. And there were three names. And mine was one of them. So I tried to figure out why I was the problem. I think it was because I, at that point, I was still in the lurking period.


I treated Sashin as a kind of the way I would a psychological workshop. or a lecturer at a library that you could sign up and pay your money, but nobody would ever really notice if you showed up. Like they didn't know your name. I was still in the they didn't know your name period. Well, first of all, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. And second, It does, it brought to mind how fundamental relationship is in the practice. How every person is accounted for and known and taken account of, planned for, considered. You know, whether you know it or not, somebody has thought about where you're sitting, what position would be good for you, how your skills fold in with the rest of the Sangha, what days you're here, what limitations you have in terms of sitting arrangements.


I mean, these vast things have all been taken into account by someone. In this case, our beloved Peter has been holding this for us this time. I mean, maybe some know what the inner workings of Sashane are, but I thought I would say some things about what my impression, what I learned from being Sashane director, which is that it's this wonderfully designed, choreographed, dance of systems that is centered in this room. This is the main show, if you will, with a schedule and the people who keep it going, the Jikido, the Shikha, the Do-Onryo, and the Doshis, the priests. What do you call a group of priests? A bevy of priests?


I don't know. A witch? A pea. A pastel of priests. But everything is interrelated and everything ties together and everything that happens in here is supported by something that's going on out there. And the other core place, as I think of it, is the kitchen. It's the one other place where there's someone all day long. There's the kitchen crew, there's the serving crew that intersects briefly, there's the dishwashing crew, and then the next kitchen crew kind of comes in that evening and so forth. It's like looking at the backside of a grandfather clock where you see these cogs and wheels and they go on different patterns. They even have a different schedule. And yet the schedules have to be coordinated so that the servers and the dishwashers know when to show up at work meeting and come back and so forth.


And there are these wonderful points of intersection like one of my favorites is when the, serving tray is handed off by the cook to the head server. You probably know, or maybe you don't if you haven't been there, there is another service going on in the kitchen when we have our service in here, shorter, less elaborate. And at the end of it, the cook passes the offering tray to the head server. And the reason that I like it is that as a cook, I always felt like I just threw my effort to the server, and it's their job now. It's their food. You know, you give up whether it's gonna be okay or not, or you try. I mean, that's a work in progress, but, I mean, caring about outcome is a work in process, but it is very much one team hands over the effort


to the other team who then takes it on. And that's how the whole thing works. So I guess what I'm saying is that I think that understanding silence, my conclusion about all of this, understanding silence really depends on relationship. It depends on how we know each other, how we talk to each other when we're not silent. our Dharma study, all of that works together. It reminds me, and so I ended up thinking a lot about river trips and rivers I've been on because during that same period of time that I was lurking here I was running rivers a lot and especially pretty much every year a two or three week trip down some southwestern river like the Green River in Utah or Cataract Canyon or the Grand Canyon.


And there are a lot of similarities. There are a lot of similarities about being in, and a lot of things that I've learned. doing that, about being in a, for example, in a tribe, about being in a group that is not a family, not a casual, you know, ad hoc meeting, not a neighborhood, but a tribe that has a common purpose and a set of principles that guides it, and that has each other's back, where everyone has one another's back, which feels a lot like Sashin to me. And it is where I learned about silence, being in the wilderness and floating, you know, for hours on end watching those canyon walls go by, you begin to vibrate on a different level. Your nervous system just, you know, I don't know, revs down without billboards, without electronics, without any of that kind of extra noise.


And in fact, when I would come back from those trips, I would feel something akin to culture shock and determine that I was going to hang on to that feeling into the rest of my life and it would last about a week. And after doing that a half a dozen times or more, it occurred to me that I needed to do something actually in town. that gave me that same thing, which is actually how I got to be sitting here more, how I stopped lurking. But I learned many other lessons from river trips and river running. One of the primary ones is to row the current you're in. So let me explain what I mean by that.


So you're in a raft, and the raft is going to go in the direction of the current that it's sitting on, just that footprint. You can have current going other directions all around you, but it's the current that you're in that determines where you're going to go. with a little modification. If you've got oars, then you can stick your oar and then change direction. So you have some, a little bit of ability to grab current that's going in another direction on either side of you. And the point is, usually rapids are fast-moving water flowing through obstacles. And so your job is to figure out how to dance through them and be in the right place to pick up the current that's going where you want to go. And one of the ways you go through a rapid, particularly a big gnarly one, is you get out and scout.


So that means you get out above it and you walk down to the bottom and you look at where you want to end up. And then you walk back and you say, if I want to be here, in order to be there, I have to be there. And you sort of chart your course back up to the top. And okay, I have to enter here. That's plan A. eight or nine times out of ten, you got plan B. And so you have to be kind of free and loose with your plan A and let it go and really be with plan B. Let it be what's happening now. That's the other part of row the water you're in. Then there's C, which I wouldn't even call a plan. It is the crash and burn run, that you're just glad to be upright and everybody's still in the boat at the bottom. And so there's some rapids, usually there are rapids that end with falls, like Lava Falls, which gives you a hint that it's automatically a plan B. You can have all the planning you want, but something different is going to happen that you can't predict, and you've got to go with it.


Now I spent a lot of time watching videotapes of people going through gnarly rapids and I noticed over the hours, especially if you watch the same rapid with different people coming out through the day, that there were kind of the novice ones whose oars and paddles were flailing and they're back paddling and there's a lot of activity. And then there is the person who comes through and does, toot, and moves exactly where they want to go. And then, toot, and moves exactly where they want to go. And everything is very calm. And I call those folks the Zen rowers. And I aspire to be a Zen rower. And in fact, there were times when I really felt like I knew what I was doing well enough that I had that feeling. There was even one time, I will say, after a very long and very difficult day, the most difficult rapid was last, big drop three on Cataract Canyon.


And we'd watched another group come through and they crashed and burned, jacked up our anxiety a lot. But that particular rapid, I felt like something even more happened, which is, by the time I got down to the bottom, I didn't feel like I had rowed. I felt like rowing happened. And it was distinctly a different feeling. It's a kind of a touchstone, like, oh, That's what they mean by that. But then there was the day at Blossom Bar Rapids, which is on the Rogue River, which is in southern Oregon. And we are scouting. We're on a rock, because you can't walk down, it's too bushy, but you can look down. And we're all there and Mr. Zen Rohwer comes along and does the perfect dance through and I'm saying to myself, I'm going to do that.


I want to do that. I want to do that really bad. And we all get into our boats and Walter was boat one, I'm boat two. Now the reason I wanted to do the Zen Rohwer really bad is because sitting in the bow of my boat is the vice of it. And I think his son... The broken arm. I didn't remember that part. I didn't remember that. Wow. No, I blocked it out. I must have blocked it out. You know, when you're telling this, I was just... When you're talking about the scouting, I was just remembering being on top of that uh... That's misplaced, man.


So, I mean, the reason I wanted to impress, the vice of it, because I wasn't so sure of my Zen shops otherwise, right? But maybe this is a place where I could have my Zen rowing come in. So the rapid is, first of all, it's a boulder field. And the biggest boulder is at the top. It's about an RV size thing, a small house. And all the river is going toward it. And then the right path is to the left, or the more clear path is to the left. I'd actually never seen what was on the right hand side. And so we pull into the currents and I'm sitting ready to do the zen power thing. And I didn't say one thing that you're supposed to do when you're rowing the water you're in, is you're also supposed to watch your downstream oar. Now when you're going in current, you usually are sort of sideways to the current because it allows you the best flexibility. So you're sideways to the current, there's always a downstream oar.


So I'm not watching my downstream oar and it runs right into a rock. Now, when that happens, the reason you watch the downstream always hits a rock, it comes through the oar lock and hits you or smashes your thumb or throws you out of the boat or something bad happens. In this particular case, the oar came out of the oar lock completely. So it's loose in my hand up here when the other one's here. And this is the one I really need to get around the left side of that boulder, which is what we also call a wrap rock. A wrap rock is a rock that tends to grab boats and they go up on it and kind of stick and then the river comes in and piles into the boat and the boat just wraps on the rock. It's hours then of rigging and pulleys and so forth. It's really inconvenient. And of course my passengers have no idea that they're looking ahead and what they're looking at is that we're riding up the pillow right into the wrap rock.


So our noses are like... And we don't wrap and I'm thinking, oh yeah, I'm desperately trying to get the oar back into the oar lock. But what happens instead is that we go to the right side of the rock, which I have no idea what's down this right side, and usually people don't run it, and probably for a reason, which I don't know what it is. And I think what happened is that there was enough water in the river. What it was is what they call a rock garden. And there was enough water, thank God, there was enough water so that we actually just ping-ponged through. And then we were all upright and in the boat together at the bottom with my plan in shreds. And my thought about it was, I mean, my thought is certainly in retrospect, aside from my bruised ego, was that I wasn't rowing the water I was in.


My brain was too full of the idea that I had, right? I wasn't paying attention. But you can't pay attention when your head is full of the ideas you have. I mean, there's only so much bandwidth. So there is something about gaining idea, if you can drop it, actually gives you more flexibility that opens up the possibilities, right? So one of the other aspects I like to read about river trips was that, you know, we would come in at the end of the day of rowing and unpack everything and set up camp and there'd be a crew making dinner. And then someone would inevitably say, scenery alert and point. And everybody would stop and look at what was happening.


And it was a way of saying, look at where in the world we are. Like, this is why we came. We came to be with this magnificent thing. I mean, there's other things about river running that are informative, but I think coming back to the question about what is the fundamental point. I mean, maybe this is an obvious association, but there's a reason why we do this particular session at this time of year, and it's to celebrate enlightenment, right? Actualizing the fundamental point, Ellen Webb in her Chuseo ceremony talked about touching big mind.


And Hozon talked about bodhicitta. And this morning when I was talking to Sojon, he talked about finding balance in the middle of falling away from balance and continually finding that still point. Hozon in his talk talked about enlightenment isn't something added on. It is the thing itself. Activity, not a performance, not trying, not trying to be Zen Rower. So here we are in this ark, this big boat traveling together. And there is no way out but through. And we have all these moments in their myriad forms which are our version of scenery alerts.


Touching big mind like Now in the robe chant in the morning when all the different voices start out kind of cacophonous and then settle into one pitch, some harmonious pitch. The passing of the offering tray. The way you can tell who's walking behind you without seeing who they are. And the way you can find that your very fine, infinitely fine-tunable mind is finding attunement with everyone and everything. So this effort we make to surrender to the schedule


to surrender to the positions we hold, is in the service of tuning up, becoming attuned. And then we turn everything over. We turn over our effort, our service, our activity. Jerry mentioned in her talk, jumping off the 100-foot pole. I've always been a little bothered by that expression, actually. It's never seemed like such a good idea to me. Sort of samurai zen or something. I mean, I understand the giving over and the letting go, I understand that. But you could say it in a more grandmotherly mind kind of way, I think.


And that is, there is nothing to hang on to. And that is not bad news. And that reassurance is the grandmotherly mind part. It's not bad news that there's not anything to hang on to because It's the freedom to respond to any situation without fixed notion. Without having to have something happen. And letting arise what arises. You turn yourself over to the river and you can count on being floated. So I found this wonderful transcript of a Suzuki Roshi talk from 1967.


This sasheen was wonderfully done. I think this is because, it is because of your bodhisattva mind. which is to do things for others rather than for yourself. If we have true spirit of, true spirit to live in this world, there is no problem. But because of our superficial understanding of life, we have many problems and suffering. Of course, as long as we live, or as long as we have this body, it is not possible to get out of suffering. So the point is how to change our suffering into joy of life, true joy of life. So we have to practice Zazen just to practice Zazen as we live in this world without any particular reason why we live in this world.


But if we understand that each one of us is a tentative form of the absolute being, whatever we do is the activity of absolute being, which is not possible to be known by us completely, but something which we cannot doubt. It exists, but we do not know what it is completely. And this is the origin of our life, or source of life. So, the purpose of our practice is to get accustomed to live without being attached to many things but this unknown thing. When we find our meaning of life in this way, naturally we can help each other.


We will love each other, keeping a harmonious way between us and between other beings, animate and inanimate. We are all friends. And then I managed to find The gatha that James Kenney was referring to when Sojourn was reading from Aitken Roshi's book on gathas. When I sit with my friends in Zazen, I vow with all beings to touch and receive and convey the mind of rivers and stars. Do you want to say it with me? When I sit with my friends in Zazen I'll say it and then you can say it after me.


When I sit with my friends in Zazen I vow with all beings to touch and receive and convey the mind of rivers and stars. So what are your scenery alerts for this Sushine? Or what has this Sushine been like for you? Or whatever else you want to say. John? I have been so happy to see the fruit of the work from mowing the lawn to pulling the weeds, everything that's happened, transforming this space, everyone's work, everyone's sincere dedication and yielding to the process of doing that, or not, you know what I mean, being in process of that, but it has produced a wonderful


Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Did you put out a hand, Audrey? Yeah. Thank you. I really like that analogy of river rafting. And then it's kind of like river rafting in life. Mm-hmm. I've been camping, and I've been in other outdoor ceremonies, and I've kind of been seeing connections. But I would say, this is on my second day in the session, but this morning when the lights came on at the end of the first session, lights came up, somebody turned it up, but that was a big moment. It was kind of like, okay, wake up to where you are. I mean, not literally wake up, and it just made me think about the year and how all of those those moments where you have to just wake up and if you have this practice you can wake up and stay there yes yes yes how's on scenery


This phrase that came to me about, oh, kind of presumed our Zen house up there, that all of a sudden, even with all of the people staying there, people coming, resting, doing that and how we used that space as a, it's not the sand dump, it's not the kitchen, and yet the kitchen was being used. And it was, it just was perfectly, with all of the activities, it was totally harmonious.


And I'm so grateful for that and for the opportunity to live that way. Now, it's not like it was precious or anything like that. It just was ordinary, basically, fluid. For me, the scenery of Jed, here, practicing with us, It's uplifting. It's ironically uplifting. When I was a head server in the corner and watching him in the midst of all of us, it's, as Dr. says, we're all together, touching and seeing each other.


Yeah, I think I have this. This is a moment just to say, apropos of what Ross said, to let people know that Monday morning, Sochi Koshi is going to give Shukei Tokyo a pre-sortation video. And it will be at 5.40 in the morning. And so that's something.


I had the idea that someday he would like to be a priest. But he said, no, earlier you were, uh, I thought you were doing, you weren't doing it. mm-hmm yes


And when Sojourn was giving a second talk, something happened for me. And I was looking out the window and people Recently, there was a documentary series presented about the brain and what helps the brain and what hurts the brain. And I was very touched because I've always been very interested in nutrition and exercise and so on and so forth. And the message was, community trumps exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, anything.


And here we are. This is health. This, you know, the connection that we have, this was promoting. And I was like, oh my God. I think it would be obvious that that moment for me, which yesterday, when Peter offered the healing ceremony for my mother, I felt like it was too public. But then I also thought, it's not about me. And in that moment with all of you, I can't, it's so big, I can't put it into words yet, but something transformed.


Thank you for that. I was on the road last summer and the small outfit I was with, they don't even let padletters in the boats. Only the guys go down. Because of the risk. Now we know. Now you're jealous. But I think one of the things that I'm noticing for me this week is the one outside of Sophie's office window. It has these incredible reds and golds and variations on the leaves, and I notice them.


I notice them in all different stages of their life. There are some that are still small in the tree, there are some that are in full bloom, and there's these that are turning colors, and ones that are going around. And I think about Jed. the changes that we're seeing in his existence. And how this community is coming together to usher him through this new stage of his journey. And I'm so deeply moved to observe the love and support in this community. And I just feel like what has been created here at Daycare Session is that fertile ground that receives what's trying to fall right well back under the ground for the next one


I'm going to spin. But, you know, I didn't think about how it was going to continue 50 years ago. I just went along with it. So, I think that's how it would work. It doesn't just keep being what it is and change according to cognitive conditions and understanding. This is a great session.


Yes, Gisu. I think she does a good job of taking care of what she needs to take care of in terms of her physical well-being and so I'm sure you'll see her again. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, I think we're there.