Tuesday, January 5, 2010


We held a special New Year's ceremony at the Healdsburg sangha tonight, to bless and give thanks for our meeting space.

The ceremony was fairly simple, moving to each room of the building and lighting a cande, then giving three bows. At the end, we all returned to the main altar, and in between chants, we took turns stepping in front of the altar to announce our practice intentions for the year.

Intentions, though coming at the same time of the year in this case, are not the same as resolutions. As Darlene Cohen explained, resolutions are a matter of applying one's will to something: losing weight, quitting smoking, being on time. But intentions are commitments to mindfulness, a form of vow.

The intentions voiced by members of the sangha ranged from following the Precepts to the best of one's ability to recommitting to daily zazen, from giving oneself a break to bringing practice from the zendo out into everyday life.

Darlene stressed the importance of vow, and of taking the time to state intention, as part of practice. She said since Zen is "nowhere standing," with nothing to hold onto except the fact that there's nothing to hold onto, knowing one's own intentions is critical.

She also spoke of daily intentions, making a statement to oneself each day when sitting down to zazen. This reminded me of my friend Clare, who said that her New Year's resolution for 2010 was to take a moment each day to reflect on what she is grateful for. Here, slightly reframed, is a similar thought: once a day, ask yourself why you are doing this Zen practice. Darlene points out that finding an answer is not important; what matters is asking the question and remaining open to whatever comes in - and continuing to sit, regardless.

My intentions...a good thing to add to my day.

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