Sunday, November 8, 2009


One of the commitments I made when I started blogging was to write daily, as a practice in self discipline. I've been doing pretty well, until this week, when my schedule overwhelmed me and I ended up missing a couple of days.

For those of you out there who noticed, and wrote notes - thank you! All is well. Just routine craziness on this end. My sister Ali was visiting from New York, and we met with her to take my 99-year-old grandmother (Gladys) out for dinner last night. The Indian food and belly dancer were a big hit. Today entailed a trip to San Francisco to hook up with more family members, to attend the wedding of my cousin Don and his fiance Makesha. I just got home from the festivities a few moments ago. My partner, Sabrina, stayed in the city, to head out on a cruise with her good buddy tomorrow morning, so I'll be flying solo for the next 15 days, trying to keep the meneragie fed and under control, and all the other balls up in the air, which can be a challenge. So, in summary, I've been on the "high" setting for the last week.

Up to this point, I have made sure I sit down to the blog even on nights when I'm not home until after midnight, trying to keep up that discipline. That's the big "D" word for me, something I've always struggled with, setting and maintaining regular practices. So just as an exercise, I have been attempting to blog as if it were a vow, a daily intention, hoping that this commitment will build confidence in my capacity for steadfastness, and eventually spill over into other areas of my life.

It's one of the things I wrestle with about my zazen, as well. I usually sit four or five times a week, but it's kind of random. I don't have a set time or set days. I know that most people sit first thing in the morning, early. That's a stumbling block for me, because I'm simply not a morning person; I never have been. Since I first began following the Zen path, I have jokingly said that the main thing between me and enlightenment is 6 a.m.

It seems like I should "follow the rules" and meditate in the morning. But the reality is, that just hasn't worked out very well for me. I love sitting at the end of the day, when it is dark outside, with a lit candle illuminating my wooden Buddha. It's a wonderful way to finish up, and head to bed. But unfortunately, waiting until the end of the day sometimes means I get caught up in other things and forget, or simply become too tired, and go to sleep instead.

When do you sit zazen? At a specific time every day? Or is it flexible, varied? Is anybody out there a night person who has learned to practice in the morning? How did you manage it?

In June, I went to Tassajara for the first time, for a workshop with Darlene Cohen on dana paramita, "the perfection of giving." I got up at 5 a.m. five mornings in a row - the first time in my life that I have ever seen that many sunrises. It was actually pretty magical - but I drank an awful lot of coffee that week, even more than usual. And I haven't quite figured out how to bring that same "Tassajara incentive" into my home sitting practice. Maybe I'll just experiement with a few morning sits, see how it goes. Who knows? I may become a convert yet.


  1. Hmmmmm.... like most folks I sit in the early AM, but I have found PM zazen to be OK too. It is certainly OK to miss a blog if work & fatigue & animal responsibilities, etc., wear you out. Sometimes I think commitment & vow are 95% intention. Knowing when to cut yourself some slack & when to press on is a skill & a good practice -- it helps you keep tab on yr state of mind. :-) ZT

  2. i like to sit in the morning because it feels like it reminds me of my intention for the day and i love the quiet freshness of the morning. i usually miss a day or two a week if i don't sleep well or if i go kayaking. its just become part of my morning routine. sometimes if i can't sleep i'll get up and sit, and find that i love the quiet of the evening as well. listen to your body, it will tell you...............debi

  3. "this is what zazen is: a practice of living out the fresh reality of life" I have posted this quote by uchiyama on my refrigerator. It has helped me live with change in my zazen practice. this week I have been getting up at 4:00 am, going outside, lighting a candle and grieving the loss of a catalpa tree which will come down, for practical reasons, next week. I dont set an alarm - I just get up when I wake up - today it was 5:00am; yesterday 4:00am; the day before it was 3:15 am and that was just too early so I did a relaxation practice and went back to sleep.

    so I am aware this practice of early rising, lighting candles and being with the tree, then sitting zazen before dawn is temporary - like all of life. trite but true. whenever I try to codify my practice, like saying "I really like doing zazen at 4:00 am - I will do this from now on - it doesn't work - then I feel discouraged and think I can't make a plan and stick to it. this is where sangha comes in . . . having a regular practice with other committed sitters makes all the difference . . . then what happens in between is just living out the fresh reality of my life. susan