Interpersonal Meditation

Many of us with a desire to be truly emotionally close with other people eventually come to the conclusion that interpersonal relating can either be under control, safe, and artificial, or it can be raw, real, and genuine. A corollary of this is that there is no way around the anxiety that comes from being truly close with people – being intimate involves making space for a certain amount of anxiety without trying to manage it or make it go away.

The Ceremony Of Meditation

Fifteen years ago, I felt unsettled after reading a transcription of a talk given by one of my Zen teachers, Tenshin Reb Anderson. The piece was entitled “A Ceremony for the Encouragement of Zazen”.

I felt fine about Tenshin Roshi expressing the common Zen teaching that full liberation (and “oneness with the universe”) is not something that we can simply capture or do through our own intentions or efforts, but that we can align with our true place in the cosmos by sitting meditation (called “zazen” in Japanese Zen). What this piece said that I had not heard before, and disliked reading, was the idea that the true meaning of meditation is only realized within the context of a “ceremony”.

Tassajara Zen Monastery: Doubts And Resolution

[Tassajara monastery has no internet.  I finished writing this letter in late March 2000, then I then sent it on a disk through the US postal service to my friend Rich, who emailed it out to a mailing list of friends]

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This is my first attempt at trying something new.  The temple director Leslie James gave me permission to type this letter up on one of the two computers here which are used for inventories and for composing official correspondences.  Also, the treasurer Linda Taggart graciously gave me an old disk with which to send a letter on.  So, in contrast with carefully writing everything out by hand, I am writing these words onto a keyboard – with a steep, rocky mountain rising in the big window behind the monitor.  It is familiar to me to be sitting at a computer and writing a letter, but it feels strange to be doing it here at Tassajara.

Tassajara Zen Monastery: Back For Another Three Months

[Tassajara monastery has no internet and I had no computer there in 2000.  I completed writing this letter by hand and then sent the pages through the US postal service to my housemate and friend Rich, who typed it in, and emailed it out to a mailing list of friends]

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Like last year, I am existing this winter at the Tassajara Zen Monastery, a complex of about ten large buildings and seventy smaller ones in the Ventana wilderness, twenty-five miles from Big Sur.

Tassajara Zen Monastery: Warmer Days

[Tassajara monastery has no internet and I had no computer there in 1999.  I completed writing this letter by hand and then sent the pages through the US postal service to my housemate and friend Rich, who typed it in, and emailed it out to a mailing list of friends]

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I wrote most of my last letter after being here about three weeks. I imagine that this letter will be sent out sometime after eight weeks here. Time is clearly passing.  The hours of sunlight of each day are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer.  Sometimes. during the day, I am even hot, which would have been shocking during the frozen month of January. My first week here dragged forever, but now it is another day before I know it (similarly to how, in running, the first time I run a new route it seems to last for weeks, but after running the route fifty times, it goes from starting out to finishing up without much in between).

Tassajara Zen Monastery: Getting More Settled

[Tassajara monastery has no internet and I had no computer there in 1999.  I completed writing this letter by hand and then sent the pages through the US postal service to my housemate and friend Rich, who typed it in, and emailed it out to a mailing list of friends]

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I wrote my last letter when I had been here about nine days; I am writing this one after twenty-three. The main change has been that I feel more settled about and committed to being here than I did then.

Seven Week Retreat at Green Gulch Zen Center

I am writing you from the Green Gulch organic farm/Green Dragon Zen Temple, a Buddhist practice center half an hour North of San Francisco, in Marin County. It is one of the three campuses of the San Francisco Zen Center, along with City Center in San Francisco city and Tassajara in the Ventana Wilderness of Monterrey County. We wake up at 4:30 AM six days a week to the sound of a traditional Zen wake-up bell being rung as it goes up and down the hallways. We have until 4:50 to get into the Zendo and sit on our cushions, and I use that time to dress, use the bathroom, and do yoga.