Tag Archives: sesshin

Ango Morning [3]

sounds of tenzo’s teacups
and pots for oatmeal
filter through the zendo’s morning incense,

through my regret
for the unfolding of
the evening before.

a patch of emerging sunlight
slanted on the old oak floor
receives my prostration.

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Ango Morning [2]

winter dawn strains through
slatted windows;
snow sits over the grounds
with no thought of attainment.
tears in the zendo fall,
unencumbered by gravity.

Touching the Heart Mind

I finished work early today,
walked out of the office
I built in my barn
into a cool afternoon.

I took the clippers from the
upstairs linen closet and
cut my hair with the shortest blade.

There were still a few errands to run
before I came to sit here in our kitchen,
distracted by house sounds and
typing out a home-leaving poem
for sesshin,

where I’ll sit with the sangha,
alone together
under autumn skies.

Touching the Heart Mind

In a few hours time, I’ll be seated on a zafu and zabuton at the Temple, where I will sit for sesshin until Monday, rising for dokusan, sleep, kinhin, and to serve meals.

Outside, the sun will set and then rise to shine through autumn-colored leaves while small animals collect winter food. Cars and trucks will move down the road in front of the Temple as people inside them tune radios, make phone calls, and converse with friends and family.

Farther away, my wife and children will shuttle back and forth to soccer games and gymnastics, laughing, running, probably arguing too. We may take tea at the same time, not seeing but perhaps knowing.

Each of us will chase thoughts before stumbling upon moments of rest. We will cry. We will take breaths and release them, feeling the air around us, shouting and whispering.

Touching the Heart Mind

Later today I will drive to the Temple in a likely swirl of emotions. I will leave my family behind for a four-day retreat, an opportunity that is a great gift. Yet I will be driving away from goodnight kisses, baseball and t-ball games, and chalk drawings on the driveway. Away from faces asking me why I have to go. I’ll leave behind my wife to pick up these pieces with grace and great generosity.

Sesshin, the name for extended retreats in Zen, translates as touching the heart mind. When I returned home from an eight-day sesshin last summer, the weight of this touching was almost too much to bear, too much to express. I wrote these words for my wife:

opening the door,
seeing each of you,
touching each of you,
tears not from missing you
[though how I did] --

but rising from a heart
once, twice, innumerably papered over
by each and every part
of our rushing lives.
a heart stacked upon
by ten thousand necessities
pressing down
on a space deep inside.

a heart now broken
open
so that the tears
streaking down my cheek
contain my whole life,
falling onto the rise of your shoulder.