“Just Sitting” Meditation Group

Group meditation and discussion, broadly in the tradition of Sōtō Zen but open to anyone who wants to meditate with others in a relaxed environment.  No need to believe anything.  Leave your baggage at the door.  Meditation cushions and tea provided.  No cost.

Thursday evenings in Nonington

Contact Andy: 01304 842673 or amclellan70@gmail.com

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“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are,  where else do you expect
to find it?” — Eihei Dogen

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There is no I in Awareness

“Books about Buddhism always go on and on about ‘awareness’ and ‘mindfulness’.  But these ideas are easily misunderstood.  Being ‘mindful’ to most people, means bringing ‘me’ into the situation.  ‘I’ am mindfully reading this book.  This is a mistake…  In real mindfulness, book and reader disappear completely.  There is nothing to be aware of and no one to do it.  Awareness pervades everything, awareness itself is people and books, and the smell of burning tar, the songs of birds, and all the rest.”

– Brad Warner, from ‘Hardcore Zen’

Or as Chinese poet Li Po puts it:

“The birds have vanished in the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.”

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Preface to Nine-Headed Dragon River by Peter Muryo Matthiessen

Zen has been called “the religion before religion”, which is to say that anyone can practice, including those committed to another faith. And the phrase evokes the natural religion of our early childhood, where heaven and a splendorous earth were one. But soon the child’s eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armour of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise.

After that day, at the bottom of each breath, there is a hollow place that is filled with longing. We become seekers without knowing what we seek, and at first, we long for something ‘greater’ than ourselves, something apart and far away. It is not a return to childhood, for childhood is not a truly enlightened state. Yet to seek one’s own true nature is, as one Zen master has said, “a way to lead you to your long lost home.”

To practice Zen means to realise one’s existence moment after moment, rather than letting life unravel in regret of the past and daydreaming of the future. To ‘rest in the present’ is a state of magical simplicity, although attainment of this state is not as simple as it sounds. At the very least, sitting Zen practice, called zazen, will bring about a strong sense of well-being, as the clutter of ideas and emotions falls away and body and mind return to natural harmony with all creation. Out of this emptiness can come a true insight into the nature of existence, which is no different from one’s Buddha nature. To travel this path, one need not be a ‘Zen Buddhist’ which is only another idea to discard like ‘enlightenment’ and like ‘the Buddha’ and like ‘God’.

Peter Muryo Matthiessen wrote The Snow Leopard along with many other books of both fiction and non-fiction.  Nine-Headed Dragon River is a collection of his Zen journals.  Muryo Roshi passed away on 5 April 2014.

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Calmness of Mind

Shikantaza, our zazen, is just to be ourselves.  When we do not expect anything we can be ourselves.  That is our way, to live fully in each moment of time.  This practice continues forever.

We say, “each moment”, but in your actual practice a “moment” is too long because in that “moment” your mind is already involved in following the breath.  So we say, “Even in a snap of your fingers there are millions of instants of time.”  This way we emphasize the feeling of existing in each instant of time.  Then your mind is very quiet.

So for a period of time each day, try to sit in shikantaza, without moving, without expecting anything, as if you were in your last instant.  In each inhalation and each exhalation there are countless instants of time.  Your intention is to live in each instant.

– from ‘Not Always So’ by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

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