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A digest of news, reviews and musings from the StoneWater Zen Sangha
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Issue 4 - April 2016

In this issue:
1. Sensei's Welcome
2. Essence of this Edition
3. Beginning Practice
4. Practice in Daily Life
5Hidden Gems
6. Where are the Women Update
7. News From Centres
8. Readings Used in Local Groups
9. Reflections on VOX
10. StoneWater Flows
11.Crosby Retreat and Tokudo
12. Art of Dying Retreat
13. August Training Period
14. Liverpool Bike Ride
15. Postscript


Sensei's Welcome

Dear Fellow Practitioners, 

Welcome to this new SWZ Digest and thank you to all who contributed to this edition with its fascinating insights into the reasons folk started Zen practice followed by a round up of the rich sangha life of SWZ over the last few months. Special thanks also to the digest editors for doing such a really good job. 

Below are a few thoughts on the theme of this Digest, Beginner's Mind.

I wish you well.

Keizan Sensei

 
 
Beginner's Mind
For most of us this Zen path of understanding is one that evolves gradually. Along the way our hopes and expectations will rise and fall many times. At any time and especially during times of doubt or staleness it can be really useful to reconnect or return to Beginner's Mind. For me a way of expressing this is to endeavour to be open and spacious to our lives on a moment to moment basis and to allow the many facets of our being expression. 

Another way of working with Beginner's Mind and helping to sustain and inspire our continued practice is by keeping in touch with why we started the practice and remembering the essential teachings that underpin the Buddhist tradition. The following four thoughts, which I came across in a talk given by the Tibetan teacher Lama Zangmo to the Buddhist Society in July 2015, neatly express this essence. They are followed by two other quotes, one from Genpo Roshi and and the other from Master Tenkei Denson (1648-1735). Both resonate for me with reference to Beginner's Mind although you may validly interpret them differently.
 
"1. Appreciation of our present condition: appreciation of our own potential, we have to really recognize how much potential we have.
2. Impermanence: the fact that what we’ve got now we could lose tomorrow, in an hour, any time. We don’t know how long we’ve got it for.
3. Cause and effect: meaning that whatever we have we try to use for good purpose, for the utmost purpose. We try to make the most of our life.
4. Recognition of dissatisfaction in life: the fact that all this running around in circles is really tiring."
Lama Zangmo - From a talk given to the Buddhist Society July 2015.

"Our practice is like a spiral.  First raise the desire to awaken; then diligently practice. Awaken to nirvana – peace, tranquillity. Then cast it away and again raise up the desire to awaken. Practice some more, awaken, attain nirvana, then cast it away again. 
Do the same thing over and over again, never satisfied with where you stand with your accomplishment. Putting aside both attaining and non-attaining, both having and not having, both enlightenment and delusion, just go on."
Genpo Roshi – 24/7 Dharma.

"Set your sights high! You are you! Don’t be spun around by the word ‘Buddha’! Look outside the words!  There is no calculation, no arrangement."
Tenkei Denson – Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record:  Translated  by Thomas Cleary.

Essence of this Edition


The essence of this issue  is 'Beginners Mind'. This underpins our moment to moment practice. 

"In the beginner's mind there is no thought, "I have attained something." All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner's mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless."

 
"This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen, you will begin to appreciate your beginner's mind. It is the secret of Zen practice."
Shunryu Suzuki

What does it mean for you? Let us know your thoughts via Facebook or the website.

Beginning Practice

Below, sangha members share their reflection on beginning practice.

Beginnings - Alan Bell


My path to Zen practice probably started in 2001, which was when I was first introduced to meditation via the practice of Yoga.

After a 15 year career both practising and teaching martial arts I wanted to find a practice that would help me ‘slow down’. I thoroughly enjoyed the physical practice of yoga, that is, practising the Asanas (postures) but over the years as my yoga practice developed I became more and more interested in meditation. Up until 2007 I would say that I was probably meditating for 20 minutes on most days of the week.

Then in 2007, a number of life changing and somewhat stressful events hit me in a short space of time, which led to a quite strong period of anxiety – such that I had to take time off work, to recover and heal. This time away from work allowed me the time to reflect on how I was living my life. No longer did I feel that sitting for 20 minutes a day, but then moving into the rest of my day on ‘auto-pilot’ was going to create the sense of well-being and ease that my mind and body craved at the time. I wanted to bring more meditative awareness to my life off the cushion as much as on. READ IN FULL

‘How I got into practice’ - Jez Lovekin

 
I am a twin, I shared a womb with someone else. Something inside me stirs when I write these words. So my sense of incompleteness didn’t show early and not until I gained my teen years.

This search for identity, once established but not recognised, led me to leave a comfortable environment and end up mixing with some very different and interesting characters. The physical move out of the rat race was never going to work but it sowed a seed that opened my curiosity to many possibilities. It made me realise that there was a world beyond the material which was full of fascinating possibilities, full of literature, and full of characters who promised an end to my search. From the local sitting group I discovered John Crooks, Hogen Roshi, Genpo Roshi and many others. READ MORE 

My (Two) Journeys into Zen  - Clive Lindley-Jones

On the theme of Beginnings, here Clive Lindley-Jones takes us on a fascinating journey from Japan, through the Buddhist Society in London and the early years of the White Plum Asanga in the UK to StoneWater today.

One of my early Zen teachers, Soko Morinaga Roshi, in his book, ‘Novice to Master: The Extent of My Own Stupidity’, bagged what is, perhaps, one of the best Zen book subtitles that I might have wished to borrow. While many of us have taken a tortuous path to Zen, for my own life the Master bit has a fair old way to go, but is rich in own-goals and a good share of my own stupidity. That said, it can be interesting and instructive to share our journeys, so here goes.

It's 1972, I have just celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday in Kyoto. After almost a year and a half in Japan, mostly in the unrelenting urban jungle of Tokyo, I can’t wait to be on the road again, and the country. But finally, thanks to an all-important letter of introduction from a friend, I am hitchhiking through the green, forested hills beyond Kyoto. I am on my way to a Zen temple to sample this mysterious approach to answering some of those eternal questions I have been struggling with over much of my young life. READ MORE

Here is a post from 2012 on the same subject: The beginnings of my practice by Keith Shingo Parr

Beginning Zen practice can seem daunting. Beginning anything new is a little scary, but after some time we become more familiar and more at ease with what we are doing. When I first began, my attempts at Zen practice amounted to nothing more than sitting in a chair – a swivel one at that – and trying to get the mudra right. I felt foolish, awkward, and self conscious at first, thinking that if anyone walked into the room they’re going to think I had lost it.

Eventually I tried sitting for longer, again in the same swivel chair because that was all I had, and attempting to focus on my breathing and counting up to ten; as was recommended in the book I was reading. Am doing it correctly? Have I got the mudra right? Are my eyelids closed enough? Do I keep them open or close them?  I was really self conscious and wanted to get it right.

Other questions came up: Was this for me? Why am I doing this?

At some point I moved to sitting on the floor and using a pillow for support. I had even gone so far as to buy a candle; what the hell was happening to me? It all felt very strange and disconcerting. It was at this time I realised I needed some guidance and found it in a Zen sitting group which I was amazed to find was right on my doorstep in Liverpool.  READ MORE 
We also have a reflection from Andy Tanzan Scott on the beginnings of SWZ as a centre.
 

Who would have thought it?


Imagine, where we sit in zazen every week in Liverpool was once where Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Pete Postlethwaite, Jonathan Pryce and many other famous names in British film and theatre rehearsed when the Everyman had a repertory company.  In 2002 when Sensei and I took over what is now StoneWater Zen Centre, it was the Red Room and, along with the neighbouring Green Room, it had been the Everyman’s Theatre’s rehearsal space.  Then, it was a single large space with a wooden floor - there was no sangha or interview rooms, no small zendo, and no cushion vinyl floor either.  When I first walked into Narnia I walked into a rack of coats, which is how this large storage room got its name.  It was full to the ceiling with the props and costumes of two theatre companies and you could barely move in there. READ MORE
 

Practice in Daily Life

The theme of the last edition of the Digest was "Practice in Daily Life" and this post from Sue Eido King demonstrates this perfectly. When you can't get to the zendo as often as you'd like, why not take the zendo into your daily work?
 

Paying it Forward & Manifesting the priest’s foundations in my everyday life.

Since my ordination in 2014 my business Team Mushin CIC has grown from strength to strength, and I have struggled to attend regular Zen practice at StoneWater, and most times only attending two sesshins per year and attending StoneWater one day a week, work permitting.

Adam and I first opened the gym in 2011 it was just that, a gym, the way we were going to make our living by doing what we love, teaching martial arts. Over the years it has been open, it has changed from a way to make a living to something more, much more. 

I always thought that the gym would allow me more time to myself to attend Hope Street and practice the other important thing in my life, Zen. I soon realised it was going to be harder to attend than I thought and although this upset me in a way, I pushed on thinking “just a little further then it will be at the stage where the gym will run itself.

Then the realisation, as Roshi says, “it does not have to look like anything”. At first it was just about turning up cleaning the gym then teaching the classes, sure we did the odd bit of charity work but nothing major. I could still attend practice, not as much as I wanted but I could still do it. READ IN FULL

Hidden Gems

In the last issue we featured an article by Alasdair Taisen Gordon-Finlayson in 2010 on the question of "Who is Daikan Eno?".  Here is another post he wrote in 2010 on another of the names from the service dedication.

Who is Keizan Jokin Zenji?
The dedication goes:
In reciting the Identity of Relative and Absolute, we dedicate its merits to:

The Great Master Shakyamuni Buddha
Bodhidharma
Daikan Eno
Tozan Ryokai
Eihei Dōgen
Keizan Jōkin...

...May we appreciate their benevolence and show our gratitude by accomplishing the Buddha Way together.

If I just chant these names without knowing who I’m talking about, the ceremony becomes ossified and meaningless for me – and the form, the ritual, if you will the liturgical aspects of our practice are so important in allowing me to actualise my practice in a communal and active way. 

So who was Keizan Jōkin to merit a mention in this august list?  Of course we owe a debt to each of these old Indian, Chinese and Japanese men (and the women who have been edited out), but Keizan’s role in the establishment of Soto Zen in Japan in the thirteenth and fourteenth century stands alongside the greatness of Dōgen Zenji’s remarkable achievements and writings.  The Soto Zen institution in Japan, the Sotoshu, actually have an official slogan to illustrate how important Keizan is: “One school, Two founders.”  Keizan’s role is equal, in the Sotoshu’s eyes at least, to that of Dōgen, but our Western discourses on the history of Zen usually overlook Keizan to a certain extent READ MORE

Where are the Women? Here are some of them: An update from the SWZ Women Ancestors Group by Miranda Wayu Forward


In September 2015, I wrote a piece for the SWZ website entitled ‘Where are the Women?’ about the invisibility of women in our chants, dedications and lineage, how this feels as a woman in the sangha, and the research which has been done to rediscover and include the women ancestors in the history of our tradition. It was very moving and heartening for me to get such an open and enthusiastic response from Sensei and from our sangha in general.

This is some of what’s happened since then:

A mailing list was started for sangha members interested in the issue – we currently have 24 people on this list. If you’d like to be added, please let me know.

The Women Ancestors Group was launched at the Crosby sesshin in October 2015. Anyone is the sangha is welcome to join – in practice, some of us meet in Liverpool and keep in touch with everyone else through the mailing list.

In January 2016, the new Dedication to the Identity of Relative and Absolute Sutra was agreed by Sensei and Roshi and is used in SWZ services. READ MORE

News From Centres

Liverpool

The way that introductory sessions for beginners are provided has changed from April. The sessions now take place on one Saturday in the month, 1.30 to 3.30pm. The session includes instruction in zazen and an introduction to the traditions and particular forms which underpin practice in the StoneWater sangha. Also, the new format allows folks travelling from further afield to access a ‘one off’ session. The first session was held on 16th April with 13 beginners attending. The remaining dates for 2016 are as follows:- 14th May, 18th June, 16th July, 17th September. Booking in advance is essential and can be done through the SWZ website.
Alasdair conducting the service

Northampton

Alasdair Taisen Gordon-Finlayson visited the University of Northampton's Meditation Society where 20 students turned up to have their first experience of zazen,chanting and bowing. READ MORE

Zen Mind Beginners mind cover
Readings used in local groups

Zazenkai at StoneWater Zen Liverpool has included readings from the following:

Dennis Genpo Merzel "The Eye Never Sleeps- Striking to the Heart of Zen"

Shunryu Suzuki "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"

Ken Jones "Beyond Mindfulness: Living Life Through Everyday Zen"

 

Reflections on VOX

Tony Shinro Doubleday led two meditations sessions in the presence of a wind harp at St Mary's Church in Stoke Newington, London, and reflects on the experience.

"I led two Zen meditation sessions in the old church of St Marys during the Breathe: a celebration of air festival (26 February - 20 March 2016) and have been very grateful to Output Arts and the festival director, Rachel Millward, for the opportunity to sit quietly with the sound of the VOX wind harp throughout the vaulted space of the church. One comment that Andy D’Cruz of Output Arts made about the installation resonated with me in connection with my own experience of meditating in the company of VOX. He mentioned that he hoped the wind harp might bring out something of our relationship with the wind and the weather, which he doubted was so obvious in an urban environment as it was, say, for him in his home, in Wales. 

Having spent a lot of time in the far west of the British Isles I think I understand a little of what he means. When I am there, I can’t help but notice the immersive effects of the weather fronts coming in off the Atlantic, as they shower and sometimes drench the mountains and coastline with rain, or drape its ridges, cliffs and bays in veils of low cloud.." READ MORE


 
These poems, by Karen Robbie, were so popular with people at Crosby that they needed to be shared here.
  






 
 
 

 



Returning from the Bathroom

 
Although I sometimes wear the Tathagatha teaching
In my attachment to kinhin
This time I forgot to wear it

Thank Buddha that the Tathagatha teaching
Was just where I left it
Waiting for me to pick it up again

No loss no gain
Although bathroom breaks are inevitable
And kinhin is important

Let us strive to awaken, awaken
Take heed! And remember to wear
The Tathagatha teaching together
 
by Woo-Young Tetsugen Yang

Crosby retreat and tokudo





 

Drawings of trees, made whilst on retreat at Crosby, April 2016.

These drawings are an attempt to respond to what I was experiencing when out walking at Crosby. I was striving to make marks, and create images that capture my immediate response to what I was seeing, hearing, and feeling. "Not knowing is most intimate." - Brodie Shoji MacPhee.
Retreat exploring “The Art of Dying” with Jez Lovekin

StoneWater Zendo in the Lakes. Monday, 30th May to Friday 3rd June.

“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of our lives” Carl Jung.

“As I see it, we have both the material and the spiritual elements to our lives. The material is one of dualism/gain/ form/achievement, and this is how we live our everyday lives. Perfectly normal and nothing wrong with this. The spiritual however, is one of holistic/ non-dual/ surrendering/ emptiness/ dying and loss. Nothing wrong with this either. Except we are out of balance and mostly fail to live with loss and dying in our minds. ” Jez Lovekin
FURTHER DETAILS

August Training Period led by Tony Shinro Doubleday

This annual training period at StoneWater Zendo in the Lakes will begin on Monday 1st August and end on Thursday 25th August 2016.

Bookings can be made for any of the following weeks. Priority will be given to people booking a full week or more.

Week 1 Retreat: Monday 1st to Friday 5th August (led by Keizan Sensei)
Week 2 Retreat: Sunday: 7th to Friday 12th August.
Week 3 Samu (working) retreat: Sunday 14th to Friday 19th August (practical skills needed).
Week 4 Retreat: Sunday 21st to Thursday 25th August.

This month long period will also form part of the training for a Shuso or ‘head monk / trainee’ and this year the position will be taken by Shinro. There will be a final ‘Shuso Hossen’ ceremony at the StoneWater Zen Centre in Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, 27th AugustFURTHER DETAILS

StoneWater Zen Liverpool Bike Rides 

On Saturday 6th February 9 sangha members set off on a 42km circuit of 21 Liverpool parks. It was a wiggly and inventive route that Andy had devised. Despite almost constant rain and a lot of mud, there was a lot of laughter and there were still some cyclists left at the end. All the others had retired gracefully. 

 
On Saturday 5th March 7 sangha members were spoilt with a dry day with gorgeous light for a cycle from Orrell Park in north Liverpool to Ormskirk via Formby. Some of us got a bit carried away by the lovely day and racked up 50 miles in total. 
 
The next bike ride will be on Saturday 7th May and will include a ferry on the Mersey, views over to Wales and ice cream at Parkgate. People will be able to choose how far to ride as there will be a number of possible stopping points. Contact Sarah on thwaites.sarah@btinternet.com for more details.

Postscript - Death Poem by Jez Lovekin
 

  At last when
  I reach Nirvana
  I won't have to use 
  Silly words 
  Like Banana.
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