My Current Daily Practice

My spiritual practice has taken many forms over the years.  One thing I’ve learned is that the line between “spiritual” practice and other practices is purely imaginary.  Here are the things I’m doing now which I consider parts of my spiritual journey:

  • Sitting and enjoying a cup of green tea while reading inspiring works.  My tea is part of my new cancer-prevention regimen, so is also part of my physical practice or self-care.
  • Reading inspirational literature (while enjoying my green tea.)  I spend about 20-30 minutes reading from a variety of daily readers in several different traditions.  Five of them are Buddhist.  Seven of them are not.  This practice also helps to keep me mentally sharp.
  • Giving myself an all-over Reiki treatment.  Reiki is a Japanese energy technique used for relaxation and healing.  I spend about 15 minutes on this.  Reiki, like my tea, also falls under the category of physical health.
  • Meditating.  Yes, I do a traditional sit-and-still-the-mind practice.  I’m currently doing 40-45 minutes per day.  I’m participating in the Winter Feast for the Soul, which I highly recommend, even starting “late.”  Of all the meditations offered, I’m doing the Tibetan one, which includes some chanting.

It all adds up to 90 minutes per day.  I could never do it if I saw these things as tasks or chores.  Luckily, I enjoy each part of my routine, even mindfully brewing my tea.  And it sure beats watching television.  At the end of my life, I may wish that I had meditated more, but I doubt I’ll wish that I had watched more television.

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“Going” on Retreat

I completed my at-home retreat.  This was my first “solo” retreat – though with all the animals at home, I never felt alone.  I didn’t end up seeing my friend on Saturday, but I did have to dog sit for a different friend who is recovering from major surgery.  Her dog doesn’t like one of my dogs, and major drama ensued.  While my retreat experience wasn’t fully restful, I got to be of service to both dog and owner, and that was good practice, too.

Because numbers are how Americans are taught to keep score:

  • Zazen periods: 14
  • Demons fed: 4
  • Prajna Paramita practice periods: 4
  • Chanting periods not part of other practices: 3
  • Metta meditation periods: 4
  • Neighbors I had polite conversation with while walking the dogs: 4
  • Wandering dogs I returned to their owners: 1
  • Number of 200mg ibuprofen gelcaps consumed: 9

I learned a lot about how my mind works and about the nature of mind.  I managed to avoid the major temptations of sleeping too much and turning on the computer.  I will do this sort of “householder retreat” again when the opportunity presents itself.

Roll-Your-Own Retreat Schedule

My beloved husband is going out of town next weekend.  So, I’ve decided to take Sylvia Boorstein’s advice and “don’t just do something, sit there!”  Below is my tentative schedule, based on Hubby leaving around 7 Friday and returning sometime after 2 on Sunday.

Of course, all schedules are subject to change!  I will probably be seeing a friend on Saturday afternoon; I’ll just chop out the activities I had scheduled for that window of time.

My plan is a mix of Zen and Tibetan practices.  They actually blend together better than one might think.  Tributaries of the same stream.

I’ll try to report back after I see how it actually works!

FRIDAY

7:00 PM           Open Formal Retreat.  Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunset is at 7:40)

8:00 PM           Demon Feeding Practice

8:30 PM           Walk Dogs, Feed Dogs, Cat, Bun

9:00 PM           Evening Bell Chant

9:30 PM           Lights Out

SATURDAY

5:30 AM          Wake Up, Walk Dogs

6:00 AM          Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunrise is at 6:15)

7:00 AM          Demon Feeding Practice

7:30 AM          Breakfast, Walk Dogs

8:30 AM          Zazen – Bowing, Chanting, 3-4 Periods with 10 minutes of walking in between

11:30 AM        Relax (Yoga, Shower, Read, Etc.)

12:30 PM         Lunch, Walk Dogs

1:30 PM           Relax (Read, Etc.)

2:00 PM           Zazen – 5 Periods with 10 minutes of walking in between

5:10 PM           Relax (Yoga, Read, Etc.), Walk Dogs

6:00 PM           Dinner

7:00 PM           Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunset is at 7:39)

8:00 PM           Demon Feeding Practice

8:30 PM           Walk Dogs, Feed Dogs, Cat, Bun

9:00 PM           Evening Bell Chant

9:30 PM           Lights Out

SUNDAY

5:30 AM          Wake Up, Walk Dogs

6:00 AM          Prajna Paramita Practice (Sunrise is at 6:15)

7:00 AM          Demon Feeding Practice

7:30 AM          Breakfast, Walk Dogs

8:30 AM          Zazen – Bowing, Chanting, 3-4 Periods with 10 minutes of walking in between

11:30 AM        Relax (Yoga, Shower, Read, Etc.)

12:30 PM         Lunch, Walk Dogs

1:30 PM           Zazen

2:00 PM           Close Formal Retreat

2:01 PM           Nap.  🙂  KATZ!

The Week in Review through 10/19/08

Meditation:

Demon Feeding:  7
Prajna Paramita Practice:  2
Vipassana (periods):  0
Zazen (periods):  0

Chanting: 1

Teachings:

Talks attended:  0
Talks given:  0
Interviews received:  0

Retreats (days): 0

Books Finished: 1

“Feeding Your Demons” by Tsultrim Allione

Notes:

My practice this week involved rescuing my husband, who was broken down by the side of the freeway, rather than going to the Zen Center.  Hard training.  🙂

Spirit Rock Retreat 2008, Day 8

9-28-08
9:30 AM

Notes from Lama Tsultrim’s closing talk

How to set up a Prajna Paramita shrine. “If one worships Prajna Paramita, one has honored all Buddhas, past, present & future.” – “Buddhist Goddesses of India.” Copy of the 8,000 line sutra, wrapped in yellow cloth, placed on the shrine. In Prajna Paramita temples, that is the object that is revered. An image of her on the shrine or hanging behind [is fine, too]. “Of course, you have to actually read the sutra.” Edward Conze has a good translation.

I asked if all Tibetan chants were this soft. No. 🙂 Tsultrim learned this “melody” for the Prajna Paramita mantra from Alan Ginsberg, who learned it from Gary Snyder. “It’s a lineage!”

“The past has been erased from your heart. But let me tell you who you are.” Tara to Machig.

Then we did another dyad. I had my same lovely partner. The first question was how the sacred feminine manifests in me. Then we did “let me tell you who you are.” My partner saw me as a wise goddess, with wings, who can float. She saw me as manifesting balance in my relationship with my husband, in my work, & in my own feminine & masculine attributes. I saw her as Green Tara, ready to take on the issues of her time, while learning to love & care for herself.

Notes from Anna’s closing talk

We can’t jump over the difficult parts of our lives. No “spiritual bypass.” Employ various methods, because no one practice does everything. “If it did, we would teach it to you.” We need to integrate & stabilize the deep retreat experience into our lives. That is a way of practicing the dharma.

One of the most liberating practices is investigation. Inquiry. What is this demon? How do I feed it? Deep questioning. What is this? Who am I?

Balance between movement & stillness, study & practice, relationships & aloneness.

We finished the retreat as we began, with Tsultrim leading us in the Prajna Paramita manta.

A lady named Teresa is giving me a ride to the airport. I have some powerful karma with a different Teresa – so much so that I have a negative association with the name. I am taking this gift from the universe as an opportunity to get over it.

11:54 AM
I spoke briefly with Tsultrim & told her I’d like to study with her, while continuing my Zen practice. She advised me to start with Kapala Training I – which happens to be offered during the time Michael will be in Laguna Seca. And so my karma unfolds…

I made friends with the woman I had had trouble liking. I spoke to her just now and she’s quite nice! Isn’t that interesting…?

The Week in Review through 10/12/08

Meditation:

Demon Feeding: 9
Prajna Paramita Practice: 4
Vipassana (periods): 0
Zazen (periods): 3

Chanting: 1

Teachings:

Talks attended: 0
Talks given: 0
Interviews received: 1

Retreats (days): 0

Books Finished:
0

Notes:

I had a consulting interview with Tim.  I told him about my experiences on retreat, and he was very supportive of my having learned some Tibetan practices.