A digest of news, reviews and musings from the StoneWater Zen Sangha
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Issue 3 - January 2016
In this issue:
1. Sensei's Welcome
2. Essence of this Edition
3. Practice in Daily Life
4. Practicing Amid Family Life
5. Practice in Work and Leisure
Hidden Gems
5. Readings From Around The Centres
6. Your Suggestions
7. StoneWater Flows
8. Crosby Easter retreat
9. Liverpool Bike Ride

Sensei's Welcome

Dear Fellow Practitioners, 

First of all thank you to the editors (what  a great job you have done) and to all the contributors of this digest.  I have much enjoyed reading it and the variety of personal experience and reflections.

Below is something I wrote quite a while ago but, given its resonance with the essence of this digest, I thought it fine to reprint it here.

Finally, my hope is to see many of you at the Spring Crosby sesshin. For me this is a most important time for all sangha members to meet. The support structure we have created together in the name of SWZ has as one of its most important meanings the offering of sesshin. It really is true that time passes swiftly by. To know in retrospect that we have taken each golden opportunity to really focus on our practice is itself a source of well being. As with last year, Tony Shinro Doubleday and other senior practitioners will support me in leading the sesshin. 


Life and Practice
For most of us, work, family, relationships, friends and holidays are usually of primary importance in our lives with 'spiritual practice' low down on our list of priorities. I say this not as a judgement but as a pragmatic observation, however,  I am interested in why this is the case. And then even if we do wish to engage with 'Zen practice' and bring it into our everyday lives, the question arises about how do we do this. For me these two questions and their answers may be linked.
For example, a common experience is that although we may be trying to integrate practice into our lives we feel we are not succeeding. Why is that? One source of this sense of failure that I see is that often our hope or belief is that 'real' practice will make our lives trouble free. It will be the complete solution to our doubts, fears and worries. However, practice in this sense is not a universal panacea nor is it designed to be so.  If we have the expectation that it is and then discover it is not working we may either lose faith in the point of practice or we think we have failed because we do not do enough (or sit hard enough, or train with the right teacher or right tradition etc. etc.). Neither approach is conducive to long term practice.
For me another perspective to take on the dilemma is to flip the usual questions of how do I prioritise practice and how do I bring practice into my everyday life. Instead ask the one question,  How do I bring my everyday life into my practice?  From this perspective I now embrace the view that the life I am leading now with all its attendant problems and joys is in fact my real and authentic life, the life I have been looking for. Work, relationships etc are my practice. Dedicated spiritual practice now becomes not something to 'improve' life but a way of appreciating its moment to moment sacredness. Zen then becomes a tool to help in fully engaging with our lives  and to developing the confidence to commit fully to all that life brings. Along the way we can also cultivate goodwill towards ourselves and others and develop a more panoramic, spacious view of life. All of which contribute to remaining sane and to having faith in the sacredness of each moment.

Practice now becomes intrinsic to my daily life and, just as importantly, life becomes intrinsic to my daily practice.
I wish you well.
Keizan Sensei

Essence of this Edition

The essence of this issue is how we integrate our Zen practice into our everyday lives. We hope this digest serves as an opportunity to reflect upon and share how practice can be interwoven into the fabric of our lives – work, health, family, relationships, interests and passions.  Showing up in our own lives as well as in the zendo, the mundane and even the most difficult aspects of life cease to be distractions or obstacles to practice but instead become our practice. 

We’d be interested to hear how you “genuinely appreciate your life as the most precious treasure and take good care of it” (Maezumi Roshi). Let us know your thoughts via Facebook or the website.

Practice in daily life

We asked sangha members to share their reflections on what practice in daily life meant to them. We'd love to hear more people's thoughts.

"Daily life becomes more and more practice for me. I was reading about this recently about whatever you are doing at any given moment is your zazen.  Whereas your zazen was a practice you fitted into your life, now I have taken Sensei’s advice and flipped it, so for example, practicing and playing my guitar becomes my zazen, going for a walk or reading becomes my zazen.

The aim is to fully become whatever I am doing. I’m not 100% successful obviously, who is? But that is the general aim." - Keith Shingo Parr

"Perhaps there was a reason I came to Zen practice. I wanted to change my life. Now I do not  practise with that intention. 

Practise is my normal routine. It is not something extra to my life.  I just do it each day in the same way as I need to go to sleep, or eat breakfast. If I choose not to sleep or eat breakfast I will be tired and hungry. If I choose not to practise I become spiritually starved and worn down. This is my experience. 

It is my faith that Zen practice will gradually free me of the bondage of self, enable me to act skilfully each day and give me space to completely embrace my life - in all its aspects - that keeps me committed to it." - Paul Riley

Jan Shigetsu Jones shared this quote from Charlotte Joko Beck which she finds helpful on this subject:
"Disappointment is our true friend, our unfailing guide; but of course nobody likes such a friend. When we refuse to work with our disappointment, we break the Precepts: rather than experience the disappointment, we resort to anger, greed, gossip and criticism. The moment of disappointment in life is an incomparable gift that we receive many times a day if we're alert. This gift is always present in anyone's life, that moment when "It's not the way I want it!" "

A podcast of a talk that Tenshin Roshi gave in November 2015 at Yokoji Zen Mountain Center entitled Immersion in Everyday Activity also fits perfectly with the theme of Practice in Daily Life. LISTEN HERE 

Practicing amid family life

Two sangha members with young children share their thoughts on combining with practice with life with a young child. Please follow the links to read the pieces in full on the website.

Alan Kaishin Crawford wrote:
"Sitting down to think and write something about practice and everyday life as a new parent, the first thing I notice is my impaired capacity to actually think! My mind feels slightly fuzzy and dull through lack of sleep and general 'baby brain'. Kind of like the opposite of the post-sesshin clarity that feels like a very distant memory. 
I haven't been on a retreat for such a long time; I wanted and needed to be nearby and easily reachable during the pregnancy - we tried for over two years to have a baby, before having to go through a very tense, stressful, but ultimately successful IVF process. There were just enough scares and concerns throughout the pregnancy to keep us from ever really relaxing in to and getting excited about what was happening." READ IN FULL

Colin Salmon wrote:
"When I have asked in the past about how to practice as part of family life, or whilst raising a small child, I meant one of two things.  Firstly, how do I keep doing zazen?  Secondly, how do I see myself as a proper Buddhist when I am cleaning up shit at three in the morning, have a cold and argued with my wife before going to bed because it was all a bit too much?

In my opinion the latter question is the more straightforward to answer.  You don't.  If you previously took pride in being the kind of person who doesn't lose their cool, doesn't get frustrated, and always arrives on time, well then, welcome to parenthood.  It is not like that for anyone.  It is inevitable that it will get to you at times.  When that happens to me, if I am not too busy telling myself that it shouldn't be this way, or I shouldn't be this way, then I can learn something.  That might not change the reality of the situation, but it can make it a bit easier next time.  One of the biggest challenges for myself and many new parents I know is the sudden loss of personal space and time for oneself." READ IN FULL
Practicing in work and leisure

Alan Bell describes how how practice informs his working life:

“Firstly, please let me describe the sort of work I am involved in. I work as an IT Portfolio Manager, for a company called Unilever, managing a large team of project managers (20 people) based in the UK, US and India – we deliver global IT infrastructure solutions to the R&D, Marketing and Information and Analytics functions of the business. Overall, it is something I enjoy – particularly helping people in the team to grow and develop gives me the greatest satisfaction.

Earlier on in my career – I was very much focussed on climbing the corporate ladder and reaching my full potential. There is nothing wrong in this particularly – but for me it brought a lot of grasping and therefore suffering. Nowadays, my focus is more on the quality of service I can provide – and focussing on this primarily, and letting promotions take care of themselves to a large extent (which they have) – for me it is amazing that when I practice relinquishing control and just simply focussing on doing my best and letting the outcomes take care of themselves – how paradoxically, things tend to fall into place. This not only helps reduce my stress levels but also brings more joy into what I do.READ IN FULL

Sarah Kokai Thwaites relates how her allotment served as preparation for meditation:
"21 years ago when I first heard that there were places called allotments I suddenly knew that was what I wanted to do with my spare time,  I had no idea that it would become so important in my life. It is only in retrospect that I can see that and to spot the parallels between time on the allotment and time in the zendo. Back then, before allotments hit their current popularity, they were a very unusual place for a woman in her 20s and the first allotment site I approached flatly rejected the idea of me having a plot. My patch of wilderness, surrounded by other plots held mainly by men many decades older than me, seemed an unlikely place for me to hang out and I couldn’t have predicted that it would become such a place of refuge for me.

Back then I lived in a chaos of overlapping thoughts, few of them helpful, caught up in so many ways of making life difficult for myself and most of the time pushing life away as fast and as hard as I could." READ IN FULL

Hidden Gems

The StoneWater Zen Women Ancestor's group exploration of our female ancestors encouraged a new curiosity about the male ancesters whose names have long been included in the StoneWater service. This article penned by Alasdair Taisen Gordon-Finlayson in 2010 provided the answer to the question of "Who is Daikan Eno?" 
"OK, this one was a bit embarrassing. I decided to figure out who Daikan Eno was, as I had previously written that “Daikan Eno and Tozan Ryokai are the ones I know least about.” It turns out, of course, that he is one of the most famous Ancestors of all, the revered Huineng, Sixth (and last) formal Ch’an / Zen ancestor! For some reason, though, we tend to remember him by his Chinese rather than his Japanese name, so I never made the connection. In the words of that great ancestor, Homer Simpson, “Doh!”

I’ve heard the story of Huineng many times – you know it: the illiterate peasant who wrote the winning entry in the “Succeed the Fifth Ancestor” poetry competition? Yes, you probably do, but I’ll rehash it in any case. I’ll refer to the Sixth Ancestor as Huineng throughout, as that seems to be the common usage in English.

So then: Who is Daikan Eno? It’s Huineng, of course!

Life of Huineng

Even a bit of research reveals the trouble with a biography of Daijan Huineng (Jp. Daikan Eno, 638-713 CE): what we think we know is almost certainly not the truth." READ MORE 

Readings used in local groups

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

"On Zen Practice" by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman
"Sailing Home" by Norman Fischer


"The Places That Scare You" by Pema Chödrön 
Your suggestions...

Miranda Wayu Forward says:  

"I'd recommend a book by Susan Moon called 'This is Getting Old - Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humour and Dignity' - particularly for women over 60, but it's just as relevant to men and to younger people. It's very wise, funny, down-to-earth and inspiring and I've given many copies to friends."

Jan Shigetsu Jones recommends 'The Great Failure- A Bartender, A Monk and My Unlikely Path to the Truth' by Natalie Goldberg.
"I was fortunate in coming to write this review in that the author gave an interview about this book in Tricycle Magazine ‘Beyond Betrayal’ (Spring, 2005) which was republished recently . As I find it challenging to write at the best of times (despite my wish to do otherwise) I have drawn on some of the themes in that interview.

There is so much in this book to write about in my experience: the author is a writer, a teacher of writing, an artist and a long standing zen practitioner. Failure is a theme throughout the book, her own unashamedly ‘owned’ failures as a daughter, a writer, a  teacher and speaker, a zen practitioner and the failures of others and the huge learning to be gained from them all." READ IN FULL
StoneWater Flows...

We include four diverse writings from sangha members. We hope that you enjoy them and encourage other writers (or potential writers) in the sangha to also share their writing with us.

Jez Lovekin offers his reflections on the power of The Identity of the Relative and the Absolute “Years ago, when I first heard and chanted this Sutra, I found myself connecting with it like none of the other sutras. This was the one that spoke to me about my ignorance of practice and subsequently my developing understanding and finally my need to struggle with the paradox and sheer perversity of being born a human.

Others have spoken in admiration and wonder about the Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, the Diamond Sutra etc but although they contain much of our understanding of the great mystery of our lives, none for me contain the immediacy of my unwinnable fight for a safe and secure position in the uncertainty of my life. This dilemma haunts me and I have this paradox at my fingertips, simplified, accessible, understandable, familiar rather like those wonderful tool belts that have become so popular amongst tradesmen, who need that hammer, chisel, drill readily available without the need to think too much or make a big effort to access them. This is work/practice made as easy and efficient as possible without all the baggage that we come to rely on. Vans, ladders, zafus, cushions, they all are discarded and  forgotten in the moment. I need to grab the appropriate tool immediately.

But this paradox is a constant and haunting dilemma for me and perfectly presented in the Sutra : how do I square the conflict of my everyday and extremely important self with the knowledge that I am also unbreakably connected to something so huge and mysterious that I know it is futile to even begin to make sense of it.

Bob Hozan Gray (Hozan, meaning Dharma Mountain, was given Tokkudo by Keizan Sensei at on December 12) writes:

“I remember attending a retreat with Master Simon Childs of the Chan Fellowship, whom I followed for some years. He was responding to questions, and one student asked him to explain “emptiness”. It’s a big, important subject in Buddhism, so Simon thought about it for a moment and started to pull out some of the well known formulations. Traditional buddhists love those formulations. In Tibetan shedras, crowds gather to listen to students chewing the fat about subjects like emptiness, buddha nature, angels on the head of a pin!

Imagine a table, he said. Just like that one there. In fact, move that one to the centre of the room. See, it has four legs and a top. Very simple, but what happens if you remove a leg. Is it still a table? What if it has only two legs, or only one leg? Is it still a table? We considered this dutifully. One leg gone and it’s still a table, restlessness and disagreements emerged among the students. Still a table with one leg gone, not a table with no legs." READ IN FULL

Karen Robbie has shared her poem “Small Buddhas”.

Passing time
losing myself
in small birds.
Tweets & twitters
of delightful buddhas,
never reaching
the crescendo
of a troubled world.
Slipping in,
a pigeon sits,
cooing gently,
with the kindly nature
of a monk in grey robes".

Tomasz Huszcza shares two poems about everyday life

stone from river
from hand finger
                                   I think finger                            finger moves
I think stone
                                    water flows


                                                           one word
so many leaves
                                                           dog voice
is coming out of the bark

spring again

You can read some more of Tomasz's poems HERE 

Stuart Gendai Hollyoak has penned this about his reasons for taking jukai. "When I found Buddhism and came to know what it was about I was ready to commit. My life confirmed the Buddha’s teachings, the three marks of existence. That the Buddha also only concerned himself with suffering and the end of suffering and not with metaphysical speculation sold Buddhism for me. It became my greatest consolation. I took jukai to commit myself to the fullest expression of reality in my eyes.” READ IN FULL
Crosby Easter Retreat 3rd - 9th April 2016


 ‘It is Right Where You Stand’ is the theme for this year's Easter retreat with Keizan Sensei. The retreat runs from 6 pm (register at 4 pm) on Sunday 3 April to 10.30 am Saturday 9 April. It is suitable for both beginners and experienced practitioners and is a great opportunity to begin or renew training in an authentic and traditional Zen lineage.  
Further details are available here but please book soon and register your interest with Jez - email: 
StoneWater Zen Liverpool Bike Ride
On Saturday 6th February Andy Scott will lead a 42km circuit visiting 21 Liverpool parks. The route is mostly 'off road', fairly flat and the pace will be gentle. There are options for people to leave the ride part way if 42km seems a bit daunting.  Contact Sarah on for more details.
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