5-day Sesshin

I just finished my longest Sesshin, an extended period of meditation. This was a 5-day Sesshin in California. I was reluctant at first to commit to the five days… I was not sure I could handle it. My fears were unfounded, though, and I had a wonderful time. It turned out to be relatively easy once I made the decision to submit to whatever it might be like, good or bad, or whether I would feel discomfort.

Which is all a bunch of judgements. I remembered, at the beginning of Sesshin, that we tend to do this, thinking, “I had a good sit,” or “I had a bad sit,” when all we should do is just sit. See, my anxiety over a long sitting period partly stems from the fact that I have ADD. My zazen is alway busy. I realized that this is just my zazen in my lifetime.

In Dokusan (private meeting with the teacher), I expressed how my mind is like an unruly child that wants to turn over the furniture and throw things on the floor. He told me that during a Sesshin my mind would eventually quiet down, but I had my doubts. Yet after about a day and a half into the retreat, my mind did get relatively quiet. So although my zazen is usually busy, it is possible for it to get quieter, to be less attached to specific thoughts. Now that I’ve committed to meditating six days a week, it will be interesting to see what zazen is like at the end of 2018. I am not attached to any particular outcome, I’m just curious.

Another observation I had is that some of us cling to zazen, thinking we must get somewhere with it, or achieve something. If only we do enough zazen, we can get rid of that anger (or fill in the blank). I don’t believe this is the point. I don’t think we rid ourselves of emotions, but just learn to observe them, and ultimately not be so much at the effect of them. However, even with the clinging, zazen is a benefit.

Clinging to zazen.
With a fart in the zendo,
Attachments are lost.

Mind still busy, though, I did write haiku sitting on my cushion during one period of zazen, including the one above. For the first day and a half, I observed how my mind got caught up in streams of obsessive thoughts, which pass and move on to other obsessive thoughts. They are so ephemeral, though, and they’re not real. I didn’t have thoughts that related to anything that was going on in the moment, they were all past and future thinking.

The gossamer threads
Blow with the whims of the wind
going nowhere fast

So for now, I will just sit.

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