Wednesday, 22 August 2012

August Zen Sesshin

At the weekend I attended BMZCs August sesshin with Paul Haller, at Benburb priory near Armagh. I was unable to attend the whole retreat (from tues to Sunday) due to other commitments, but know from past experience that a weekend can be a great opportunity to settle the body/mind and reconnect with a deeper more connected way of living. Also I have the comfort of my own bed in the van each night, and the option to prepare my own meals when I prefer to.

I arrived on Friday evening and decided to give my full and best effort to the weekends sitting and walking meditation. There are two hours of zazen/kinhin (sitting/walking) and I endeavoured to be alert and present with all my energy. This is usually possible at the beginning of a retreat, before the body and mind rebel, and it becomes much more of a challenge over the following day.

I had an amazingly peaceful and restful nights sleeping Friday night, which is not always to be expected on sesshin. Often intense dreams and restlessness can be the case as one settles in. The first sit of Saturday was at 6:20am and the day proceeded to be a mix of times of clarity, times of sleepiness, troubles invading my mind, and the perception of time taking different shapes and forms at different periods of the day.

There is always the option to find encouragement through a personal encounter with the teacher (Dokusan) but previous experience has taught me that if I give my full attention to the morning dharma talk, and find inspiration and some feeling of the way on a deeper than words level from that, then simply making the best effort to sit with and through whatever bodily, emotional, mental weather I encounter, leads to a growing spaciousness and freedom after a day or so of storms coming and going.

So this was just what happened. Expanding the circle of acceptance to just bear witness to whatever arose, and even my judgements and reactions to it brought me through the dense woods into a peaceful forest clearing where birds sang and butterflies coloured the sun dappled greens and yellows of a warm breeze, the hints of dark clouds dispersing, nourishing the lushness with its gentle humidity.

Of course life is not perfect now, then, and never will be but it is ok to be alive and if you watch & listen carefully, you know, you just might enjoy it.

I was inspired to make these photos on Saturday night as I lay on my couch in the van on that humid evening listening to the Benburb crow colony, settling down for their night among the treetops, perched high above my house, side door open, listening to the life of the night..
A student doing some night walking meditation
View through my scarf curtain on the main house at Benburb Priory

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