Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Intuitive Math

I observe in myself two types of math skills. I'll call them intuitive and cognitive. I can see either operate when doing simple sums or products. Other than that, cognitive seems to only be available to me.

My experience of intuitive math, particularly addition, is that I glance at the number and the answer appears to me as knowledge instantly. Trying to capture this in words is something like;

3,5 sums to 8.

It is an instant conclusion. There is no "thought" or consideration.

My experience of cognitive math is some reference to other information, some process pursued, lots of consideration. It feels more like;

3 plus 5 is 8. or 3 plus 5 equals 8.

Notice the objects appear (3 and 5), there is a process between them (plus) there is consideration of an outcome via a rule ("is" or "equals"). There is much consideration in this.

Why is this important to me? Because, as I said, there are circumstances where I seem to have a choice over which method I use to get my answer. I have literally been faced with addition I needed to do, found the intuitive method at play but getting nervous at the lack of "checking" and so switching to cognitive. And sometimes visa versa.

This speaks to me about the role of intuition in general. There can be, I believe, a way of responding to events that is direct and intuitive, instant and spontaneous and without reference to rules or relationships guidelines. Often I think our intuition always speaks first to us and then we try and "back it up" with a cognitive solution. A solution that has been thought out in reference to rules and guidelines. That is all well and good until there is a disjoint between our intuition and "the rules" method.

I experience a choice of intuitive or cognitive for sums. The rest of the time, I think I spend in consideration, idealism. I believe zazen will help me learn to choose living in intuition more frequently.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Okay Buckwheat"

Actually I don't think buckwheat is okay. I've been sitting on a Buckwheat Zafu for a year plus. I felt the non-resilience of buckwheat was responsible for my left leg consistently falling asleep. Not that the sleeping was that bad, but it was a distraction I get drawn to too much. Perhaps if I were a more centered sitter it would not be an issue, but I chose to try and alleviate it.

There will always be distractions in sitting. That is what the practice is about, in many ways. Noticing the distractions, learning how to let the distraction (the 'dissatisfaction') just be. To notice it but do nothing about it. We all must chose which distractions we address. It is possible to do zazen next to a highway, on a battle field, or while a surgeon drills open your skull, but not all of us could do zazen well in those conditions.

The one distraction that I think we must all tolerate for a minimum level of practice is the distraction of boredom. Some of my sitting is in the moment. Most of it is a struggle with how boring the whole thing is.

So, I emptied the buckwheat from my zafu. By the way a 1 gallon zafu appears to hold 12 gallons of buckwheat. I don't know how that works. There must be some sort of cosmic Dr. Who Tardis effect going on.

I took a bunch of kapok (cotton like plant fiber) from my zabuton and stuffed it in my zafu shell, and stuffed, and stuffed. I thought I would refill my zabuton with the buckwheat, but there was enough kapok left to give me a usable but think zabuton.

Based on one sit, the kapok is better. I think it will compress over time and I may have to rob by zabuton to empty, but we will see.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tan and Cho

I've finally started putting thread to fabric for my rakusu. Tan and Cho (the large and small bits of the rakusu rice field) are coming together nicely. But, my rag is old jeans and I've only done the first joining seam on each. I dread the "turn over" when I have to do the exposed seam through 3 layers of denim.

I enjoy the practice of trying to get each stitch correct but then having to accept what occurs actually.

I achieved a very un-impressive goal-filled goal today. I actually have three home-sits in a row at 30min. Haven't done 3 30's since Septembers sesshin. Found I really did not like getting up to do it this morning. Resented this silly buddism practice I'm doing for cutting into snooze time and family time. Wondering if I'm really up for this....but sat anyway.

Kind of realised how shukke is relevent even if you don't leave your house.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fallen off the Bike

There been a lot of blogging in my circle of Dharma Bro's about zazen, bike riding and falling down. I often feel a pressure to right good news in my blog. Positive outlook stuff and successes. Coincident with this planning is a negative thing or failure I'm trying to hide, I think. A shame at not being "together."

We just bought a piece of land down by the coast. No water view, but 2 acres with oaks about a quarter mile from an unbelievably large Copano bay. Since my work was shutdown this week, I spent the last 4 days down there doing basic work on the small house/shack that's on the land.

Went down with full intention of lots of quite-seclusion meditation, working on my rakusu. Instead I spent most of the time working, only a single sort meditation event. I didn't work on my rakusu at all. I feel quite ashamed about all this. My friend Just Zazen (see blog list in sidebar) wrote recently about falling off his zazen 'bike' for 36 hours. My advice to him was to know it's okay and to take a next step. My internal critic is much harsher on me. A critic I should have "left by the stream" (see Uku's blog) years and years ago, but still carry around.

Strive for a next moment that is more in balance, but forget fairy tale Zen.

Sit for balance.

Shame is only useful on very rare ocassions.

It's okay.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Jukai Koffee Bean

I'm still headed towards Jukai. Dependent on whether I have a rakusu prepared in time. Some of the pieces are cut. Today I took the yellow pillowcase and tried to dye it browner with cast-off coffee from Starbucks. While that seems to go against the advice of picking fabric without discrimination, to get the coffiee grounds my daughter and I had a little adventure that excuses the transgression, I think. We had to get some stuff for a party my wife and I were going to that night so I invited my daughter to hike with me down to the local grocery store to get it. My daughter hasn't wanted to do anything with me for the last month or so, so I was phyched that she took me up on this invitation to walk.

We were going to stop off at the stand-alone Starbucks that is on the way, but when I got to Randall's I remembered they had a Starbucks kiosk built in (lest it be to troubling for patrons to drive literally across the street to the stand-alone). On the way in, I stopped at the Starbucks kiosk and asked the Starbucks lady if she had any grounds to toss that I could have. She did. I told her we'd pick them up on the way out. We got our "fuzzy water" and baked beans and stopped by the kiosk again. She had prepared an 10lb bag of cast-offs bigger than a large bag of rice.

She nicely put the short bag of grounds into a longer, industrial sized trash bag to make it easier to carry. I tied the end of the long bag through our grocery bag with the 12 pack of canned water. The coffee and water just about balanced each other. I was an odd sight to suburbia, I'm sure. A large bag of brown whatever suspeded down my back with a box of water hanging from the front. My daughter carried the beans.

We reveled in how odd we looked to the world, and how nice it was that we took a 30 minute walk to do what could have been done in 5 by car.

So now the pillow case is dyed to an earthly beige. And even though that fact of not-accepting-what-it-was cuts contrary to Dogen's "instructions," the color it has carries the memory of our odd adventure. Which, of course, I prefer.

And Jukia itself will be an odd adventure if I pull it off.

Brad has said he will officiate, but has nothing to say about where and with whom. He will be here in April to do some booksigning and dharma talking gigs I worked out for him. I've only been to the local Zen center once, and don't have a strong relationship with them. I would feel a bit odd, just dropping in on their space for a Jukai.

I've been thinking that since my zazen is done at home, and since my wife and duaghter are my immediate sangha (or at least they don't object to my pursuit), my home is really the right place to do Jukai. It is, in effect, my temple.

I will ask my wife and daughter to attend. I might even invite a relative or two that I speak with some about my Buddhist inclinations. Maybe even my wife's best friend and her husband. We haven't talked much about Buddhism, but I'm sure my wife has talked about it with her friend (and so her husband), so they are probably mildly supportive.

I'll convert our dinning room into a temporary zendo; find a formalish chair, and I must have a small efigy of Buddha somewhere. Near to Austin is a patch of Loblolly pines, cut off from the main herd by some past ice age, if I remember the park sign correctly from 30+ years ago. I'll go there and get a pine sprig.

I would like some of my e-sangha friends to be there too (that's many of you reading this). I thought about video links and such but that level of technology seems too techy for the spirit of the event. What I'd like to offer instead is that if you'd like to "be present" a my Jukai, send me a little note in the mail with some thing to represent you. It could be a picture, a guitar pick, a scrap of fabric left over from your own rakusu... just something little. Kinda like those cool tokens from Monopoly (I always enjoyed being the shoe).

I will arange your note and "token" on a shelf in the room where the Jukai occurs.

This is all a bit of fantasy. I haven't finished my rakusu yet, so who knows. Brad may think the whole idea of a home jukai is too unorthodox even for him.

If you're interested in taking the plunge into this bit of unknown, my mailing address is

Lauren Crane
1401 Wesson Cove
Cedar Park, Texas 78613

If it reaches me by April 16th, and my rakusu is ready, your token will "witness" my Jukai.

Our friend Uku just got back from Japan where he was able to hang out with Nishijima Sensei and recieve Jukai from Peter. I find I expereince a little envyous of this. Maybe I should wait until I can afford another trip to Japan, and do Jukai as part of a Shizuoka retreat? But no. Trying to copy someone elses cool adventure never turns out right in the long run. This home-jukai idea is a bit of karma I've already set in motion. It fits my reality better. So that's where I'll put my focus. We'll see!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mu! (aka 'Wuf')

I asked my dog if he had Buddha Nature.

He licked his nose and sighed heavily.

Is there any question to this meaning?

Monday, March 2, 2009

-- [This Page Left Intentionally Blank] --

Seen today attributed to Basho

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.

Seek what they sought.

A very difficult lesson.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I Must Be Annoying

I sent the following question to Brad the other day,


I find it very hard to manage 2x30min meditation daily, though I am still working at it. Some days I succeed, others, I do not.

I definitely have a goal to achieve 2x30, but not specific goal in the meditation itself but to strive towards non-thinking "action actually" while I sit.

Is working towards it enough to be considered a "True Buddhist" or must it be achieved before one can "join the club?"

Now that I reflect on it, I'm embarrassed ... but only just a little.

As I've studied Buddhism over the last year I've found it unsettling. I don't know what the 'rules' are. I see lots of arguments about rules. There is lots of concern about good teachers and true teachers and the right kind of Buddhism.

I've been around for nearly 50 years now and this experience feels alot like highschool. I really was miserable in much of high school.

I can see those karmic waves still rebounding in my character now. A lot of fear and a lot of curiosity, and way too much seeking approval from external sources.

I want Brad to approve of what I understand about Buddhism. Ditto from Nishijima Sensei, and ditto from you who may happen to read this blog. And in that, is the point Brad strives to make in his books, you've got to take responsibility for your own path. I've never noticed before how much I do not take responsibility for my own path. I think 50% of the discussions I've had on blogs recently has been me trying to get approval for what I already believe rather than the exchange of ideas (the 'guise under which the conversation is structured).

Said the Oracle "You've already made your decision, Neo, now you're just trying to understand it." {or there abouts}.

I wonder how many aspects of Buddhism I've already made up my mind about and I'm waiting for someone else to tell me I'm right before I embrace it.