Failing Practice, Frail Practice: Examinations of Homeowner Zen

Inspired by a recent post on Progressive Buddhism , Digital Zendo as well as C4Chaos’s #openpractice tag on Twitter I thought I would quickly review and examine my own practice in an open forum. Equally inspired by my thesis advisor, I will attempt to keep it less than 500 words.

I consider myself a Zen Buddhist. This preference stems more from the fact that it is one of the few sects I have direct experience in actual practice than a real solid attachment to the teachings.

With only a small Buddhist population in my area, I rely largely upon books, blogs and podcasts for my Dharma. Many are accessible and based upon the Pali Canon while others discern more personal expositions into the practice. While I appreciate both types and the guidance from either can be helpful, I find that my own practice is beginning to wane slightly.

I make an active attempt at practice every morning. I prepare for zazen with some yoga stretches and a quick workout (this old bag of bones is not as flexible as it once was) and then open my altar and sit for 15 minutes (I used to be able to devote more but with child and work at 8:00, I am limited in time). Then I chant the Maka Hannya Haramitta Shingyo repeat my vows and listen to a relevant podcast or engage in some working meditation (dishes always need washing and floors always need sweeping).

Practice with my sangha is where I have been particularly lax. I usually attend a Sunday 9:00 zazen and chanting service at the Laughing Teabowl Zendo (a grass-roots Zen group that meets in Rapid City). It is usually a small group of 8-12 that is organized by two lay-practitioners (both have jukai). We meet in a yoga studio and operate the service as is standard in a Soto Zen temple. We take turns in opening the altar, timing zazen and striking the kesu, announcing kinhin, striking the mokugyo and leading the chants. We are loosely affiliated with the Great Mountain Zen Center in Lafayette, Colorado and have two weekend sesshins a year attended by Gerry Shishin Wick Roshi and Ilia Shinko Perez Sensei. Both qualified teachers (although I have yet to attend a seshin) have developed The Great Heart Way (a secular approach to Buddhism – Nothing new here).

At one point my home-practice was a panacea for the changes I was expecting in my life: A new, more challenging job, a child on the way and changes in my academic study. However, while a sublime experience in the preparation for these changes; my Zen practice has become superficial as of late and not holding the same depth as it was previously. Did the practice help me in the preparation for changes but not in the execution and follow through of those same changes? Did this bag of wind blow too hard and I am now simply out of breathe and waiting to inhale again? Or for all of my big words on home-practice, is my own practice deficient and lacking and needs guidance?

510 words.


PS – Kyle much love for the inclusion of “Sweep the Dust, Push the Dirt” in your “My Twelve: Best Buddhist Blogs by Individual Practitioners“. I feel that I am undeservedly in lofty company. All of the blogs you listed were from intelligent and insightful practitioners (my personal favorites being Jaye Seiho Morris and Mujaku) as well as some others that I was not familiar with but am very happy to now discover and annoy. Cheers for the inclusion on the list!
shit. that is now way over 500 words.

2 thoughts on “Failing Practice, Frail Practice: Examinations of Homeowner Zen

  1. I am of the firm belief that an #openpractice forum or way for everyone to discuss their practice would benefit everyone, especially those who have no real life sangha.

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