Friday, June 29, 2012

Snippets

Not having anything coherent to say myself right now, a couple of little things that have caught my eye:
"If you accumulate money for your heirs, they will only fritter it away. If you build a library of books for them, they will never read them. Far better to secretly increase your virtue and create a lasting legacy for your descendants" - Chinese family precept, quoted in Beating the Cloth Drum.

"And yet Subhuti, those sons and daughter of good family, who will take up these Sutras, and will bear them in mind, recite and study them, they will be humbled - well humbled they will be! And why? The impure deeds which these beings have done in their former lives, and which are liable to lead them into states of woe - in this very life they will, by means of that humiliation, annul the impure deeds of their former lives, and they will reach the enlightenment of a Buddha...
If moreover, Subhuti, I were to teach the merit of those sons and daughters of good family, and how great a heap of merit they will at that time beget and acquire, beings would become frantic and confused. Since, however, Subhuti, the Tathagatha has taught this discourse on Dharma as unthinkable, so just an unthinkable karma-result should be expected from it" - The Diamond Sutra.

Tuesday's skies

Fog burning off after breakfast this morning

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Study Hall - Extensive Record

Keeping things interlinked, in one of the dinner conversations I had last week, the other person expressed an interest in Dogen's poetry. She declined to take a copy of Dogen's Extensive Record, even though the last two volumes comprise over a hundred pages of poetry, on the entirely understandable grounds that it was too big, and was happier to go with a slim volume that contained just poems.
This nevertheless prompted me to open again my copy of the Extensive Record, and it happened that the page I opened to resonated with the conversation we had been having:
"The great way originally has no names or words. Recognizing this principle, still we are compelled to call it the great way. Buddhas and ancestors appear one after another. The wooden man and the iron bull follow on each other's heels, ascending and descending. However, they leave no traces to appear before us. But assuredly [the great way] does not depart from this very place, but is always deep and calm. We should know that when we seek we cannot see it.
A long time ago, a monk asked Zen Master Guizong [Zhichang], 'What is the way?'
Guizong answered, 'You are it.'
Also a monk asked Mazu [Guizong's teacher], 'What is the way?'
Mazu said, 'Ordinary mind is the way.'
Also there was a monk who asked an [unknown] ancient worthy, 'What is the way?'
The person said, 'What you have been going through is it.'
Are these three venerable masters' sayings ultimately the same or different? If you say they are the same, ten are just five pairs. If you say they are different, eight ounces are half a pound. Ha!" (Volume 8, 2).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nourishment

Continuing the thread of the last post, the one way that you can easily communicate with people at Tassajara is a good, old-fashioned, hand-written letter. Two days a week in the winter, Keith comes in from Jamesburg with produce and mail, and it is always nice to receive something.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to get two such pieces of mail here in the city, both blog-related, and this post is partly to say thank you to Peggy in Oahu, and to Gail in Edinburgh who sent me a huge box of delicious-looking locally-made chocolates, and whom I have no other way of thanking except publicly (for the record Gail, I am pro-Marmite, but still on the fence about Marmite chocolate until I try some, intriguing concept that it is). Gail is also the person who sent me the card of a Tunnock's tea-cake, which prompted much musing back in January, not to mention a subsequent delivery of actual tea-cakes.
I would also like to thank yesterday's anonymous commenter for this link to an article about Britain's Buddhist police officers, which contained within it a link to another story about the growing numbers of Buddhists in Britain's jails, both of which are subjects I would definitely want to explore further if I move back to England in due course.
Naturally, I was perked up by all these offerings, and, tired as I was for much of the day, I was also enlivened, as so often, by last night's Young Urban Zen meeting, where Mike, one of our original cast, offered his way-seeking mind talk with a series of anecdotes, including his thoughts about mindful eating, which, I realised, would make a great subject for us to go into - I heard that there was a small group meeting at the Green Gulch retreat about this topic as well.
As sometimes happens, a number of us took off to the Orbit Room afterwards to say goodbye - hopefully temporarily - to Collin, who has been a mainstay of the group for the past few months, and one of the people there took the opportunity to remind me that I had promised to give her my way-seeking mind talk if she bought me a beer. Even though I had already bought my own beer, I still found myself, not for the first time at the Orbit Room, holding forth to a tableful of people about some of the events that brought me to where I am today.
All of which makes me think of the very fluid and inter-related nature of teaching and learning. A friend was recently taking me to task for being somewhat recalcitrant at accepting gratitude for the teaching I offered, and it is true that being on the receiving end of such praise feels awkward to me. Partly this has to do with my own, family-generated karma around praise and blame; partly it is because I am not officially a teacher at Zen Center - being shuso is the first step to making that happen - even though, as Paul acknowledged recently, I kind of slipped under the wire with YUZ. Partly it is also to do with my sense that on many levels you cannot teach anyone anything; just the other day I was discussing this with a resident who had come to me for advice, and to whom I ended up lending the book of Hakuin letters, as I had just been reading him forcefully making the same point. That said, perhaps the exchange I had with the resident was useful for her, just as people find what I write here to be of some benefit, and perhaps 'teaching' can happen over a beer in a bar (as that friend pointed out), or sitting down to dinner with someone, as I did a couple of times last week, to hear what is going on for them. And, as Mike very nicely brought into his talk last night, all of us have something to offer and all of us feel we are lacking something (we broke into pairs to say what came up for us around those two notions). As I have said before, I have learned a lot from elders in this community just by watching them move through the day, just as much as I have from sitting in dharma talks. It is almost incidental learning, but not quite. It is always there if you are motivated to pay attention to it.
And with that, for Gail, some sky pictures from the past few days.

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Saturday

Saturday


Monday, June 25, 2012

Clarifications

I am very grateful for all the messages of congratulation and support that I have received not just here, but also in person and by email, around the announcement that I will be the next shuso at Tassajara, but I feel the need to clear a few things up.
A shuso's term is for one practice period, and it is my firm intention, as the old saying goes, to be back by Christmas, and to resume living at City Center. During those three months, however, I am not going to be leaving the valley - unless there is an emergency - and I will not be blogging.
When I last lived at Tassajara, I had the strong opinion that practice periods and the internet were entirely antithetical; while I was prevailed upon to write a short piece for the Zen Center website once, I think it was mostly about the weather - I could not reconcile the enveloping intensity of being in the monastic schedule with the many-faceted and transient nature of being online. The focus of our time and attention in the valley is of necessity internal, not just in ourselves, but also within the group of monks, and little of that can be communicated outside in any meaningful way.
Beyond that, we are asked not to bring electronic devices,  and I am determined not to take my lap-top with me, assuming I have enough memory cards to store all the photographs I imagine I will be taking. Even if I did, these days it seems to be hard enough even to get a clear phone line out of Tassajara, as it used to be in the old days, and other means of communication are extremely limited. Just as they should be if we are to work hard inside the monastery walls.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Going Public

Abbot Steve came to work meeting yesterday morning and announced the changes in the Zen Center officer positions that had been ratified by the board the day before; unfortunately a new secretary has not yet been selected to replace Valorie, who has been patiently waiting to take over from me as ino. He followed this by asking if everyone knew that I was going to be the next shuso at Tassajara, for the fall practice period. Nobody did, mainly because the decision was only made at the weekend - which is what I was alluding to in my post after sesshin - so I was subsequently showered with congratulations.
It is a wonderful honour to be asked to be shuso. I had requested previously to have the chance to do it at Tassajara, and there had been a few conversations about how and when this was going to happen. Now that it is closer than expected, I feel very excited to have this opportunity, and to be able to study and practise down there again.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Longest Day

Yesterday was the perfect day to head to the courtyard and have the summer solstice ceremony before dinner, with warm sun all day. The wind made an appearance as well, as is typical in the city, and we had some other visitors too: while people were coming up from the zendo I could hear some low flying helicopters, and I was worried we were all going to be drowned out, but fortuitously they seemed to find somewhere else to hover until we were taking everything down at the end, when they became very audible again. And during the offering of poems and song, a little thrush-sized bird (sorry not to be able to identify it, perhaps someone else knows) landed in the maple tree over my head, and then made for the fountain for a quick bath, whereupon it looked round to see a circle of people around it, and flew off again, perhaps feeling a little self-conscious.
I was down in the courtyard earlier in the afternoon to take pictures of the various flowers in bloom:





Zen Center is also full of colour out front, with our rainbow flag flying over the front steps. I was thinking about reproducing my previous picture, but ended up with some variations on the theme instead.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Study Hall

Having reluctantly returned the Katagiri Roshi book to the library, I have been able to turn to the book of Hakuin letters, Beating the Cloth Drum, that Robert very kindly gave me a while ago. So far it is filled with typically bracing language, some of which I would hesitate to post here. This is a tamer paragraph: "The ocean of true reality is boundless and profoundly deep. The Buddha Way is immeasurably vast. Some priests do nothing but seek fame and success until their dying day, never showing the slightest interest in the path of Zen or the Buddha's Dharma. Others become enthralled in literary pursuits or become addicted to sake or women, oblivious of the hell fires flaming up under their very noses. Some, relying on insignificant bits of knowledge they pick up, shamelessly try to deny the law of cause and effect, though woefully lacking any grasp of its working. Some find ways to attract large numbers of people to their temples, believing to the end of their days that this is proof of a successful teaching career."
I noticed a slight tinge as I was typing out "enthralled in literary pursuits", which was followed by the attempted deflection of thinking that Hakuin himself was obviously not averse to writing down his understanding...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Revealing Ourselves

Yesterday morning was understandably quiet in the zendo, as the residents who sat all weekend were not obliged to come to the morning schedule. Young Urban Zen, by way of a contrast, was packed to the gunwhales again last night, with I think fifty people in attendance.
We have been mixing it up a bit recently. Particularly, Simon, Tim and myself have been wanting to get more women's voices to the fore - when we were planning the group early last year, most of the organising group were women, but once we got underway, none of them ended up in regular attendance for different reasons. Last week Maggie facilitated our one-year restrospective, during which Stephanie had made a call for a different format; I invited her on the spot to lead the group this week, and she presented a series of exercises designed for us all to open up about ourselves. Towards the end of the evening, I could feel how warm and bubbly the energy was, and even with a larger than usual number of first-timers, everyone at the end, when we were asked in turn to express our appreciation, said that they felt included, and there was much gratitude for this safe and welcoming space that we offer. It was noticeable afterwards that many people were not in a hurry to leave; I was also happy to see that the people who had been at Green Gulch over the weekend were all greeting each other warmly, as I remember from last time.
I managed to take time off between morning zazen and afternoon zazen, and when I got back to business I heard that Katherine Thanas, a student of Suzuki Roshi's, and the long-time teacher at Santa Cruz Zen Center, was very ill. With Blanche's help we got a well-being service together for her. I asked Blanche if she wanted to be doshi - I was filling in for Lucy - but she said she wanted to be kokyo, and led us in chanting the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo. We all wish Katherine well.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sitting Together

After sesshin was over, and I had cleaned up and eaten dinner, I went for a brief walk outside. The fog had set in, muting everything, and I was happy to slip down the streets, taking in everything, noticing again how, whatever the stresses and strains of the sitting - and in this position they are always many and varied - invariably there is a residue of settled sharp awareness. I think this is noticeable to others as well; this morning, instead of having a talk, we had all gone out for an equally leisurely walk in the warm sunshine. I walked at the back of the thirty-strong group, some of us in robes with our flowing sleeves, watched how passers-by reacted to us, and held up for myself to examine as well this unusually public identity of 'zen priest'. As we filed by a furniture store, a young man talking to a couple of others bowed to us. He turned to me and asked if we were Buddhists. Yes, I replied simply. I love you guys he smiled, and I smiled back.
We ended the sitting this afternoon with a chosan (not to be confused with a shosan - check the labels for the various iterations of each). It was a fitting way to bring the small group together for a finale, and the feeling was sweet and relaxed. Overall my reaction to this three-day sesshin was not so different to the reaction I had last year: it's only three days, it's gone before you know it, but I enjoyed hearing how much it meant for others.
The brevity does not mean it is easy to prepare for - since we drop a one-day sitting in the middle of it, basically I had to set up two complete job lists and seating charts, and of course, there were twice as many variables to come and trip me up. I started earlier than I would ordinarily for a sesshin, and felt I was ahead of the curve right through to Thursday night, even with all the expected unexpecteds: people not on my list, people going sick, people who didn't think they were going to be able to make it and did, and vice versa, people sitting two days, or part of all three days, or some other combination.
I also had distractions in terms of conversations I hadn't anticipated about my next steps here at Zen Center. As I have been telling people recently, and as my experience has been, until I am actually sitting on an actual seat or behind a particular desk, there is no point saying anything about it, and another aspect of this weekend illustrates this: until Thursday, I was not completely sure I was going to be sitting the sesshin at all. Three months or so ago, I decided to schedule a Young Urban Zen retreat at Green Gulch for this weekend. I remember having the sense when I did it that I was tempting fate, but it seemed to be the most suitable time, and since there had already been some talk about me transitioning out of the ino position, I told myself that either I would not be ino in June, or that somebody would be able to replace me. It turned out that neither of those guesses were accurate, and while I might have had more expansive fun with YUZ at Green Gulch these past few days, and would have almost certainly made more of the good weather, while being more suitably attired for it, it was abundantly clear that I had, as I sometimes say, cooked myself a breakfast that I couldn't eat *. The situation being entirely of my making, I had no problem settling down to do what I was supposed to be doing rather than what I might wish to be doing. And that, for all that I look forward to a bike ride tomorrow, just as I used to look forward to running after sesshins at Tassajara, is what sesshin is all about.

Warm, but also windy yesterday
 * A friend of mine at school, intending to study philosophy, went for an interview at Oxford. Afterwards he told me the question was put to him, "Can God cook himself a breakfast he cannot eat?" I always liked this question, though I wouldn't dream of trying to answer it; it is the kind of thing that has kept me well away from western philosophy. Quite often the phrase came to mind while I was building walls at Tassajara when, having laid out a satisfyingly beautiful combination of rocks, I would realise that it was impossible to put anything on top of them to continue the construction.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sesshin Begins Now

Just have to find the right set of admonitions...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Presence And Absence

At the Young Urban Zen meeting on Monday, we took the opportunity to reflect as a goup on the past year. It was a big gathering, as it usually is these days, and not everyone had the chance to speak, but there were many expressions of gratitude, and people noted how heart-warming the meeting felt. One of the questions we posed was about how everyone would like to see the group in the future, and I was delighted that people hoped that there could be YUZ groups in other cities, so that we end up with the kind of network of affiliated sanghas that Zen Center has. Part of the idea of that question, for me at least, had been for us to explore what wasn't working and what we could do differently, and since the tone on Monday night was mostly all positive, this other side didn't really come out. Talking afterwards with the one person who had also encouraged us to look at this side, so that we don't get stuck in thinking that everything is just fine the way it is, it occurred to me that perhaps we weren't asking the right people: those who were there last night - the brand new people aside, of course -  are the ones who have helped shape the group into what it is, and who keep coming because it is working for them. If we really wanted the answer to what didn't work, we should ask the hundred or more people on our email list who tried the group and then stopped coming, to see what they had to say about this.
While I was away in England, Blanche left on a trip to the East Coast, to see her grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter, and also to go and visit Joan in Marblehead, and I have been noticing how much I miss her around the building during the day. When I first lived here, and she was the Abbess, her presence and leadership were so palpable that I remember being a little disoriented at how different the building felt when she went to Tassajara to lead a practice period a few months later.
It is not just the Abbess though, however key her role is; we all make the community what it is by our presence and energy, just as the traffic and the birds contribute to our morning sitting.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Study Hall

Still unpacking karma from Each Moment is the Universe: "Human action appears on the surface of life, and the next moment it is gone. Zen teachers sometimes say, 'Just be present, here and now!' so you may think this means when you do something you should just take care of human action that appears on the surface. But that is really a messy way of life. If you pay attention only to what manifests on the surface of life, you don't understand human beings, because there is something else - unmanifested karma.
Unmanifested karma occupies the basis of human existence. Whether you realize it or not, whatever you do, your action leaves behind a kind of smell in the depth of human life. We have to take responsibility for our behavior, whatever it is, good or bad, right or wrong, because even though our actions disappear from the surface of life, the smell of what we have done is still there as unmanifested karma. If you don't understand that there is unmanifested karma, you cannot understand the depth of human life, and you don't realize the importance of your actions.
Everyone carries the unmanifested karma of human action from the beginningless past as a sort of inheritance or property. It's not something like original sin; it's completely nothing. You simply cannot put any label like good or bad, right or wrong on unmanifested karma, because it is completely beyond the moral sense. So I use the term neutral nature. This karma is always present in your life, stored in your body and mind. If it doesn't appear on the surface, no-one knows it's there. You don't know either, so it doesn't bother you. The fact that unmanifested karma doesn't bother you is its neutral nature.
No-one knows how to open the door to that big store-house of karma at the depth of human life, but there is something that can open the door - time and occasion. When time is right and conditions are arranged, something happens. The door suddenly opens, bubbles come up to the surface, and human action appears."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Luminosity

In contrast to the previous weekend, the one just past was deliciously warm and sunny. While this does not do much for my critical faculties, it does offer tremendous light for photography, especially as we get closer to the longest day. Here is the dining room Buddha lit by the dinner-time sun - to its detriment, it has to be said - and the view from the roof shortly afterwards.



Friday, June 8, 2012

Study Hall

I did not finish Each Moment is the Universe before I went away, and in the latter chapters of the book, Katagiri Roshi is talking about karma: "When you ignore the fact that you belong to a group, society, or nation, and only try to develop your individual karma, you may develop your character, but that development is based on ego. For instance, if you live with another person, how do you live together in peace? How do you develop your own personality in that situation? It's not so simple. You think, 'I want to live with you, but on the other hand I want to live my own way.' Or you want to marry, but in the next moment you want to divorce. This is egoistic.
In America I am different from most people because I am Japanese. But I have to give Buddha's teaching in a way that is beyond race and culture. So I can walk together with all people and try to develop my own personality with all beings. When you develop your individual character in the broad perspective of not-individual karma, then your personality develops very gently, in a humble way.
Sometimes Americans who study Zen Buddhism don't want to follow the Japanese way of practice. Instead of following Japanese customs they want an American way of Buddhism. That is really an intellectual understanding. So I always say, 'Pat your head and go beyond your individual understanding.' We have to develop the character of an American way of Buddhism by taking care of human life, because American karma is not separate from human karma. Can we understand America separate from Europe and the East? No, there is no way. If you want an American way of Buddhism to develop naturally, pay attention to the entire cosmic situation. Nevertheless, you have to develop your own character. How? Humbly."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One Year Older

In a conversation the other day, I referred to Zen Center as a tribe. I have the sense that since human beings lived for a long time as tribal animals, something of that still abides in our mental make-up, and we feel comfortable when we are in situations which enable us to feel part of a somewhat stable grouping of people with similarly invested interests.
Or we could just say that people crave community. This is something I have heard many times over the years here, and nowhere more so than in Young Urban Zen, which is celebrating its first birthday - well officially it was yesterday, but I didn't get to shape these thoughts in time.
From the start this group has exceeded our expectations, and it continues to do so, as I am sure you will know if you read this regularly (or else just click on the Young Urban Zen label, below right). Being involved in setting it up and getting it underway will rank as one of my proudest achievements at Zen Center, and it continues to be an inspiring and energising activity each week (Monday was not untypical, in that despite having felt horribly tired during the day, come the end of the meeting, I felt completely alive).
There are probably many reasons why the group has worked as well as it has. San Francisco is a magnet city, drawing in a lot of young people from elsewhere, who then sometimes struggle to find social activities that don't primarily involve work or drinking. Some people are interested in practice but have found Zen Center a little too formal or forbidding at first; others have practised in other places and are looking for a group in this city. Some have come because their friends recommend it; others are brought to us by Google. We are focused on practice, and start each meeting by sitting zazen, but we have branched out into so many other ways of being together: retreats at Green Gulch (another one coming next weekend); work period at Tassajara; games nights; book clubs and study groups; a women's group; birthday parties and a dessert party; hiking trips; outings to ball games, yoga classes and ecstatic dance ...
Most of all, I think people enjoy having the opportunity to thrive when they get to be a part of a mindful community where the intention is for non-judgmental and beneficial interactions. Of course not everybody takes to it: we have about two hundred people on our email list, which includes most of the people who have passed through at one time or other in the last year; our largest meeting has been around fifty-strong, but then we would have a hard time fitting more into our space. I hope everyone who has been to one or more meetings has found it a worthwhile thing to have done, and that their lives have been touched by it. Perhaps some regulars who read this might want to add a comment about what the group means to them - which we may get to discuss next Monday as well. I want to acknowledge and thank Tim, Simon and Peter for their leadership of the group as well.
Perhaps here I can haul in that old expression 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' - just recently Kosho came to talk to me about the group, and now Austin Zen Center is launching their own version (and I like the format of that page - maybe we can borrow that from them...), which is very gratifying to hear, and I hope their experience is as rich as ours.
I have posted a few pictures of group activities in the past, but this is the only picture I know of that shows a Monday night in the Conference Center, taken recently by a visiting Japanese monk just before the start of the meeting. It may be blurry, but it captures something of the energy of the room.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Vagaries Of The Weather

If the weather in England was positively Californian last week, over here we have had the kind of changeability I usually associate with the old country - Saturday was pretty grey and chilly, Sunday warm after a grey start, then yesterday it even rained for portions of the day. All in all, I was not optimistic about trying to put on the Full Moon Ceremony on the roof. By the end of the day yesterday, though, the skies had cleared, and when I woke up this morning, still considerably earlier than I needed to, there were no clouds and the moon was shining brightly.
My pessimism yesterday meant that I did not set anything up ahead of time, so I spent the two periods of zazen running up and down the stairs with goza mats, bells, cloths and altar accoutrements, grateful for help from Kogan and Konin. We had everything in place in time. And then, as the sun came up, the wind also started to blow, and the moon, which had been sitting by the Mt Sutro tower as we put everything together, disappeared behind an incoming fog bank just as people were coming up the stairs at six thirty. I had flashbacks to the last time we tried this, and wondered if people minded that there was no moon at all for their ceremony. I suspect they were more concerned about the wind, which was somewhere between fresh and bracing.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tight group we formed around the altar and the warmth of the chanting, listening to the traffic below and seeing birds pass close by, and I am sure that if I had played it safe and decided that we should do it in the Buddha Hall as usual, I would have had a nagging regret afterwards.

The moon was there when we were setting up...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Study Hall

Having not settled on a new book to read since my return, I picked up Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community, and while I read Fushukuhanpo, The Dharma for Taking Food, this morning, it is mostly a little specialised in its setting out of guidelines for oryoki. So, instead, from the same book, one of the sections from the Tenzo Kyokun that we studied in Totnes as couple of weeks ago:
"When you take care of things, do not see with your common eyes, do not think with your common sentiments. Pick a single blade of grass and erect a sanctuary for the jewel king; enter a single atom and turn the great wheel of the teaching. So even when you are making a broth of coarse greens, do not arouse an attitude of distaste or dismissal. Even when you are making a high-quality cream soup, do not arouse an attitude of rapture or dancing for joy. If you already have no attachments, how could you have any disgust? Therefore, although you may encounter inferior ingredients, do not be at all negligent; although you may come across delicacies,  be all the more diligent. Never alter your state of mind based on materials. People who change their mind according to ingredients, or adjust their speech to [the status of] whoever they are talking to, are not people of the Way."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bonding

Among the emails I read yesterday - not as many as I had feared, thanks to Daigan's efforts while I was away - was a request for an article about my practice experience and how I'd like to see Zen Center continue to share the dharma in the future. Transitional times such as this, picking up my responsibilities again after a break, are always good moments to pay attention to our attitudes and reactions, so it seemed that this was a perfect time for such reflection, and as you all know, I don't need much of an excuse to pontificate for several hundred words.
Since I had many opportunities to relax while I was away, and I was also bathed in the comfort of feeling at home, surrounded by family, friends of long standing, and familiar locales - to say nothing of my deep resonance with the old buildings, the landscapes, and the flora and fauna that were all so resplendent at this peak of spring - I can honestly say that there wasn't much I was actively looking forward to about being back at Zen Center. So it was interesting to notice how I responded yesterday to being in the schedule again, and being surrounded by the people who live here and those who come to share the practice.
It is true to say that no matter how much I enjoyed myself in Europe - as indeed I had enjoyed the life I had in London before I moved here - eventually I start to feel that there is a deeper element missing.
Often these days we read about new discoveries in neuro-science revealing the benefits of meditation, and while I was in England, I came across articles about oxytocin and its role in trust and openness in groups. I hear people talking, or as just this week, read emails from members of Young Urban Zen, expressing their gratitude for how this practice benefits them in their life and helps them in hard times, and it seems that it doesn't especially matter how we evaluate and enumerate the positive effects, or what chemical processes are making them happen, the point is that we can notice our own experience with this, and appreciate how it informs our life, and the life of those around us.