20 Feb. Tired evening. Cold morning.

Last night: mantra followed by mindfulness (of breath). Tired. Sleepy. Pity. This morning, the same technique. Nothing special. Poor focus. The house was so cold. So I sat there with cold hands and nose. Almost shivering. In the dark. In my living room. On the floor. On Tuesday before 6 AM. Like a crazy person. Who does that!?

I’m looking forward to the weekend. I really want to sit much longer than 20 minutes on Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully, my kids (both with severe sleeping disorders) will allow me to do so. This is my goal for the weekend. I don’t care about pastime activities: mindless fun and booze.

I continue to read “The Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut. I picked it up where I had left off almost a month ago: a Martian invasion of Earth. Suicide invasion, let me add. Hilarious. Pure gold.

Do you want to know one of my favourite quotes from “Zen’s Chinese Heritage”? It’s something you and me can practice between meditation sessions:

Among you there are persons with various strengths and weaknesses, but you should all observe the vegetation of the four seasons, the leaves falling and the flowers blooming, events that have gone on for an incalculable eon. The gods, humankind, all the realms of existence – earth, water, fire, and wind – all of these things come to completion and pass away in the cycle of existence. [Lingyun Zhiqin]

4 thoughts on “20 Feb. Tired evening. Cold morning.

  1. Hi Adrian, was it this cold? 🙂 From Koun Franz (via my teacher).

    The first week, called tangaryō, has been written about a lot, but I’ll add my story. I entered Zuiouji on March 1, and though it had been cold in the days previous, March 1 was a sunny, beautiful day, so I didn’t wear any long underwear or think in terms of keeping warm. After standing outside the gates and finally being granted provisional entry, I was placed with one other monk in tangaryō, a corner room with thin walls and window frames that didn’t quite fit the windows. We were told to sit in zazen all day, and so we did.
    We knew this was to last a week, but we were constantly threatened with more. Inspecting monks would burst in at odd hours to see if we were really sitting or not. We were told that if we couldn’t use our bowls skillfully by the end of the week, we would be a burden on the group, and would have to stay one more week in seclusion for good measure. We were constantly encouraged to go home, told that we really were not monk material.
    The first night, I went to sleep tired but full of resolve. The second day, it snowed hard, and the snow came into the room through those ill-fitting window frames and gathered on my lap. Thus began a week of being so cold that I couldn’t stop shaking, ever. At night, in bed, I shivered so hard that my jaw ached, and I often felt I couldn’t breathe. And of course, doing zazen literally all day every day, my legs felt as if they’d been hit with hammers. I would lie in bed, moving between two thoughts: first, that I had chosen this, and second, that I did not know why. I tried every kind of pep talk, every kind of mental game imaginable to somehow escape that physical reality, or to feel better, or to feel stronger. I felt I had been reduced to nothing, in a matter of days.
    But around the fifth day, I gave up. I gave up trying to make it better. And I gave up hope that it would get better with time. I had settled into a very cool place, as if sitting still in the most remote chamber of a deep, deep cave. I did not feel warm—I was still freezing. My legs still ached so badly that it was difficult to walk to the bathroom and back. I had chillblains on my ears—they looked, and felt, as if they were made of bloody crepe paper. I had let go of my fantasies about how wonderful this would all be, how spiritual. I no longer imagined that I would be transformed here into a certain kind of person, or that I would learn things that no one else knows. I could see in the monks who visited us that while some were quite kind in their strictness, all were human, and some were simply children, enjoying power over someone of lesser rank. Even in seclusion, I could see clearly that this monastery would not transform us all into walking embodiments of compassion. Until that day, I could not have known how much baggage I had carried with me into that monastery.
    So I gave up. But I did not quit. I did not do what a rational person might do, which is to pack up my things, politely thank everyone for the food and shelter, and go home. I cannot say why I didn’t leave—I’m certain that at times in my life, I would have. But I stayed. It may seem too simple, but now, years later, much of my understanding of Zen practice comes down to just this: to give up, then to continue anyway.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Yup… that’s cold! “Give up, then to continue anyway” – I love it. I subscribed to Koun Franz blog. Very interesting person. Thank you, David!


  2. I like to remember that Dogen, in his instructions to his monks for early morning sitting says, ‘Stay at your seat for a while, cover yourself with your quilt, and do zazen on your zafu.’ It might not help your nose, but it will keep your mudra warm!

    Liked by 1 person

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