Posts Tagged ‘Ango’

Well, maybe the new way will not be better. But it surely will be different. In retrospective I find that it is definitely worth trying: an external shift makes it easier to take a new perspective which is always enriching. Besides, it’s a great opportunity to learn something new about my own reactivity and resistance to change that I don’t approve of.

For a while I was at a loss: should I encourage my sangha-friend to open up to this change and at least give this new way a try? I noticed how my thoughts went in different directions almost simultaneously: one side of me was concerned with my self-image (how will this influence how others see me?); another side was glad the person spoke up; yet another one wished he had said something in the line of  “I feel uncomfortable and disconnected from the sangha by splitting into groups for the discussion but I am willing to give it a try”. A friend and sangha-member helped me out by voicing the need she sensed coming from the person, that of connection, which I heard in the beginning but lost when it did not make sense to me (splitting into groups is not the same as splitting the sangha!)

Suddenly I felt the tiredness of the last few weeks coming down on me. I saw the person next to me, also quite tired and obviously very uncomfortable. I backed off, invited everyone to rejoin the circle and do it the way we used to do. I felt relieved as the peace in the room was restored and we could finally turn to the poem which,  incidentally, was about impermanence and not clinging to the solid picture of the world we carry with us.

During the discussion one person said that he thought we did not have to be shaped only by “some immense storm” but in fact could allow every little thing influence us. Back then that comment didn’t strike a chord with me but as I am writing this I can see how our everyday lives here in the West are not that stormy but still consist of countless situations in which we can allow ourselves to get softer, let go of holding on to the ways we are comfortable with for the moment. A sensitive soul can feel the touch of a breeze…



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“Put those things that naturally go on a high place onto a high place, and those that would be most stable on a low place onto a low place; things that most naturally belong on a high place settle best on a high place, while those which belong on a low place find their greatest stability there.”

Dogen’s “Instructions for the Zen Cook” with commentary by Uchiyama Roshi, p. 5.

yesterday evening I facilitated the discussion at the gathering of my local meditation group. As a topic I chose a very rich in imagery and symbols poem by Rilke “The Man Watching”. I have been carrying it with me for about a month now, letting it incubate and listening in. There is still a lot in the poem that doesn’t make sense to me but there was a lot that struck a chord. Here’s how it starts:

The Man Watching

by Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.


We had a very fruitful discussion that was deeply rooted in our personal experiences rather than trying to understand the meaning of all images. Or maybe we were trying out how the poem fit our personal experiences? Some of us initially reacted to the lines like “let ourselves be dominated” because we automatically translated it into “giving up”. After some reflection we came to the conclusion that it meant “surrender”  and not “giving up” and to us the poem was about surrendering to Life itself  based on trusting it and being willing to be shaped by the storms on our journey.

The following lines especially resonated with me:

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.


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Ango: what is my eyeball now?

So what resonated with me during and especially after our first webinar with Dosho and other sous-chefs of this Ango?

First of all, I felt inspired by the energy of the group and the willingness to see how the words of Dogen could apply in our own lives. Having participated in a few webinars with Dosho by now, I noticed that it is the energy that I respond to and leave the rest simmer in the background for the rest of the week. If I try to rush myself into producing some meaningful insights, I just risk to burn the whole thing (those food metaphors for cooking our life are deliciousssss!)

First, …get the ingredients for the next day’s meals: rice, vegetables, and so on. Having received them, protect and be frugal with them, is if they were your own eyes.

– From Dogen’s “Instructions for the Cook”

The questions that I’ve been looking at these days (that came up as a response to Dogen’s words) are:

  • What does being frugal mean to me?
  • What are my ingredients for the day? and
  • What is my eyeball right now?


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I was delighted to hear Dosho did not give up on us and is preparing to cook a new Ango-period, expanding the menu and bringing in 24 cooks in this one huge kitchen called life. This is the one texts of Dogen’s that I really look forward to returning to again and again,  maybe because I love spending time in my kitchen and am writing this in the kitchen too.  I also look forward to all the craziness and warmth of the cooking process with old and new practioners.  Anyone can join!

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Ango starts

As the summer was comming to an end I was wondering how to renew and deepen the practice and reconnect with a community of like-minded and a teacher this autumn in the present conditions of a rather busy life. I saw the announcements on TreeLeaf virtual sangha’s and Wild Life Zen’s online sites  encouraging the practitioners to participate in 100-day Ango period inspired by the practice periods during the rainy season that monks and nuns have done since the Buddha’s day.

I can use Appropriate Response as a journal of sorts for the coming 100 days, where I can share  and reflect about the Ango exeriences: the ups, the downs and the middles of it as they come. I intend to stick with a sketchy and concise form not to make it a burden and think this would help me have a better overview of the way the experiences will unfold.

So, what is “ANGO”? Jundo kindly provided some information on that.

Ango, literally “peaceful dwelling”, is a period of concentrated and committed Zen practice, usually lasting three-months in the Soto Zen tradition. The roots of Ango arise from the earliest days of the Buddhist monastic community in India, when monks and nuns would cease their wandering and settle together in one place for the rainy season. Even today in Zen monasteries of Japan, Ango is a time of intense and rigorous training, typically including long hours of Zazen, short hours for sleep, formal meals taken in the Zendo (meditation hall), and a structured schedule for the rest of the day comprising periods for work, liturgy, study, rest, and personal needs. In the West, most Zen groups have adapted the form of the three-month practice period to the needs and demands of life in their communities.

The idea is to bring practice into everyday life and life into practice, merge the two.

Jundo further writes on his blog:

The most important point to keep in mind is that those work duties at the office, daily problems and family responsibilities ARE THE PRACTICE PLACE as much as the Zafu (sitting cushion). The home kitchen is the temple kitchen, the office, store or factory is the garden when we practice Samu (work practice), etc. Each presents countless opportunities for practice, and for manifesting Wisdom and Compassion.

The purpose is not to overwhelm; it is to mutually work together through a period of dedicated practice. We will do our best each and every day, and let Zazen soak into our life. But key to that is consistency, not giving up, finding the time and not quitting.

Making time for zazen, weekly Zazenkai without fail or for checking in with the virtual community and the teacher might be one of the challenges for me, as I way too often let the mind convince me a few minutes of sleep would do me more good than sleepy zazen.  I believe it is possible to do both: get enough sleep and sit zazen if I look over my schedule and make some rearrangements.

Here we go!

Road ahead

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100-day Ango starts

The 100-day Ango with virtual TreeLeaf sangha started yesterday. I set up a separate page here on Appropriate Response
with the idea of establishing some structure for jotting down my Ango experiences on a regular basis, as well as sharing it with other fellow-practitioners so we can (re)connect and support each other in our focused efforts to bring life into practice.  I believe loooking at those ups, downs and middlles in retrospect can also provide some insights. I will start the way it goes and will try to stay open as to the forms it can take.

On a personal and more progmatic level I would like to use this opportunity to bring the light of awareness into the areas of my life where I can sense being disconnected with the true self such as personal finances (mindfulness and money) and my relationship to food and eating (mindful and sustainable eating). I very much welcome Jundo’s decision to choose Dogen’s Tenzokyokin – “Instructions for the Zen Cook” – as a source to inspire us bring those perspectives into our family and work duties. How can we fully live out the buddhadharma where we are:  in the kitchen, in the office, with our loved ones, with the strangers we meet every day or even when we are by ourselves?

If you are one of those who commited to follow through these 100-day period, I’d love to hear from you. (By the way, as Jundo pointed out in his first talk on the blog, it is never too late to join in. Besides, Widlfox Zen with Dosho start two weeks from now). What exeriences would you like to share? What is the hardest thing for you?

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