My first Zen Buddhist Retreat, written March 2005


Originally written 3/15/05:
My First Zen Buddhism Retreat bombed…..
I am still interested in Zen Buddhism-perhaps more now that ever-, but not in the traditional sense and certainly NEVER with my mom again. Zen meditation retreats (according to my teacher) are traditionally silent and follow meditation (15-35 minutes at a time), followed by stretching, 5 minute break and more meditation. I know often there is walking, sitting, standing and eatting meditation as well as mindful work, etc. We did sitting and walking meditation. I struggled with the walking meditation. I have very long legs and was trying not to trip over the people infront of me-which I found put my focus too much on what they were doing, by the second day I kind of got the rythym and simplcity of it. Also, the sitting meditation was more of a challenge for me than I relaized. I like meditation but I have years and years of meditation as a witch, where you close your eyes, relax and sit or lay however is comfortable for you and usually focus on something. Not so with Zen. You are encouraged to find a comfortable position-but have to choose from specified ones, have to sit with your back totally straight, your eyes open and think of nothing-clear your mind made easier by counting. Also, once the meditation starts you are encouraged to not move at all until it is over. I have been practicing this meditation in half-lotus for about 20 minutes-at my best twice a day-more often 5 minutes once a day. However, I felt ready to take this on. Boy was I wrong. I was good friday night, we sat for about 5 to 15 minutes for a couple of hours, between sittings we stretched, walked, talked and took breaks. I felt ready and eager for saturday. After the first hour on saturday my legs and back were sore and stiff and I no longer wanted to think about nothing or count! My mom began to really annoy me. I know it was my reaction to her, she was as she always is and I am not sure why it bothered me so much. Probably becuase I had to work 11 days in a row to get the time off to go to the conference. My mom could not shut up or stopping asking why. Even though I gave her a crash course in Zen Buddhism on the 2 hour drive there. There is no “why” in Buddhism. Buddhism is not about faith, it is about seeing for yourself, if you need to ask why you are not seeing for yourself and so should not be doing it, you are not ready for it and it is obviously not benefiting you if you are plagued with questions. Buddhism “is” there is not a whole heck of a lot of explaining because it is not a faith based religion. Buddhism is about simplicity and you just pretty much work with what is reality and do not waste too much on “why”. It is taught that suffering leads to people being unhappy and that the way to end suffering to end desire. “why” leads to suffering. It can also lead to enlightenment surely. Questions like, “Why can’t I ever pay my bills?” can lead to enlightenment if you see that the reason you never have enough money for the basics is because you are spending it all on non-basics or becuase you never go to work, etc. Meditation is a tool to help you “see” these aspects of life without ever asking and without anyone having to point it out to you and break it down into small words for you. However, most often “why” is used for things like “why doesn’t anyone love me?”, “why am I fat or skinny or short or tall or unpopular or poor, so on and so forth” These kinds of “why” are irrelevant and can often lead to being unhappy or feeling bad about yourself. So, fledgling buddhists are urged to do what feels correct but not focus on why or self or what I am getting out of this or where is this going, thoughts like that are anathema to Buddhists philosphy and practice. Yet, there is my mom at every darn turn questioning, complaining and talking, AHH!!!!!! I do not think she would have bothered me if she had not been there with me, in other words if she was just a participant but not my guest.
I do feel spirtually enriched and more positive towards my chosen lifestyle change. I also learned how fabulous vegetarian food is and am adopting a diet of very little meat.
Anyway, the up shot is I left the conference early because I could barely take my mom anymore. I lack patience for sure.

–All that you touch You change.
All that you change Changes you.
The only lasting truth Is Change.
God is Change.
From Earthseed: The Books of the Living by Lauren Oya Olamina


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