Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Winter 2012 Practice Period at San Francisco Zen Center's City Center has begun, and the energy of the community has shifted - fresh and full in new ways - supporting us to take up 9 weeks of more zazen, chanting, learning and life. This is the Shuso blog and, starting tomorrow, I will be formally recognized as the Shuso for the Practice Period. Shuso is a Japanese word that is usually translated as Head Student. Serving as scribe, role model and general dharma friend for everyone, I will record some impressions here, and I hope to hear from you about how it's going.

Participating in a Practice Period has been likened to riding in a boat. By making the intention to practice with this group of people, for this defined period of time, we board the ship. Led by the Senior Dharma Teachers Shosan Victoria Austin and Zenkei Blanche Hartman, we set out on a journey. I've practiced with these two Venerables for only a short time, eight years now, yet it's been a life changing experience. Like a conventional boat ride, we get to know one another in ways we might not have anticipated, and it's helpful if we all row together.

But where are we going? You could say that our journey is inward, studying the ways that we imagine a self and a world outside of it. But that wouldn't capture the whole story. This Practice Period is entitled "The Body as Great Vehicle Practice" and we'll be studying a text by Eihei Dogen, the founder of the particular kind of Zen that we practice here at Zen Center. It's a text that encourages to view our bodies as an expression of the universal. Bringing that potentially heady view down to earth, I've started offering daily walks after lunch, so we can get out of the building and feel our feet on the ground. Like in the Oxherding Pictures, I hope to be in the world in a way that doesn't define things according to me, and I hope to experience a me that isn't defined by circumstances in the world. So I'll just keep walking, together with everyone.

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