master the 24 hours

Counting the strikes on the han - 7-5-3, 5-3, 3

From Bringing Home the Dharma by Jack Kornfield, p 72

“As Gary Snyder says,

All of us are apprentices to the same teacher that all masters have worked with – reality.  Reality says: Master the twenty-four hours.  Do it well without self-pity.  It is as hard to get children herded into the car pool and down the road to the bus as it is to chant sutras in the Buddha Hall on a cold morning.  One is not better than the other.  Each can be quite boring.  They both have the virtuous quality of repetition.  Repetition and ritual and their good results come in many forms: changing the car filters, wiping noses, going to meetings, sitting in meditation, picking up around the house, washing the dishes, checking the dipstick.  Don’t let yourself think that one or more of these distracts you from the serious pursuits.  Such a round of chores is not a set of difficulties to escape so that we may do our practice that will put us on the path.  It IS our path.”

eggs and chicken droppings

here is home

here is home

… (I)n Zen liturgy we manifest that which is known to us intuitively in the form of a visible, tangible reality.  In this way, liturgy tends to make palpable the common experience of a group….  (W)e seem, in fact, to be a culture with distinctly polarized reactions to liturgy.  While at the one end there are those who become very attached to the forms, at the other extreme are those who adamantly reject everything even remotely resembling religious ritual. (Bringing the Sacred to Life by John Daido Loori)

When we started our little sangha, we agonized over the ten thousand things that might offend people and keep them from returning.  To bow or not to bow; to light a candle or not; to use Buddhist terms or not?  Was it a mat or a zabuton, a cushion or a zafu?  Was it the Heart Sutra or the Prajnaparamita?  Oh heck, was it a sutra or a reading!  Were we making practice accessible or copping out?

Over the years, as we listened to the sangha members (or are they meditation friends!), we began to hear the undercurrents of fear.  Fear that rituals would be traps or untenable rules that would always have us being “less than”.  Fear that the already painful belief of being less than would become a leverage for the unscrupulous.  As we cultivated our language of being together, some of those fears eased.  Others have morphed into rituals.  Go figure!

Zen liturgy is upaya, skillful functions as a way of uncovering the truth which is the life of each one of us. (All practices) point to the same place: the nature of the self.

For myself, the fear of not getting things right (the first time, every time), creates this push-pull with ritual.  Have a metric and there’s a measure of performance.  Have no metric and how do you know what the measure is?  From that fissure in my thinking often comes a lack of discernment and a draw to what distracts from the anxiety.

And that distraction takes the form of an impulsive tendency to pick up chicken droppings thinking they are eggs.

(But) it is not a matter of knowing.  It has to be realized as the functioning of our lives.  And for practice to function, for liturgy to function, it must first be wholeheartedly engaged.  Practice is always with the whole body and mind.  Just … aping the form … is a dead end.

Practice now is in holding the anxiety, not the distraction which can be a ritual, a book or a word.  It is feeling the sense of true nourishment which brings me home the first time, every time.

Thank you for practicing,