Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One Thousand Days... The first day..

My 1000 Days of Ferocious Effort has begun. Over the past few weeks, beginning around 20 September, I began to fine tune my diet in order to better practice the integration of body/mind/spirit by improving my nutrition and eating habits... one of the many facets that this practice will address. I have shed 14 pounds of excess body weight in this time, and have cut caffeine, refined sugars and carbohydrates, and non-nutritional foods from my diet entirely. Over the first week or so, my body responded to the change in fuel with shock... followed by gross fatigue... and a severe headache (which I suppose was due to caffeine withdrawal) that lasted nearly a week. Happily, that part is over and done with, and I am feeling lighter, much more energetic, and my general emotional level has settled into a calm, even state.

This retreat will focus primarily upon silence, solitude, meditation, work, and contemplation. This will be augmented by cultural (art, music practice), physical (body practice; i.e., physical exercise), and spiritual (liturgy, ritual) practices throughout. Unlike a normal Sesshin*, however, I also plan to incorporate academic study into my days.

This is the 'loose' plan for the next thousand days.... I am sure that it will re-shape and refine itself as the retreat takes place. I will do my best to maintain a journal of my experience during this practice here.

I am not setting out with any particular goal or result in mind. I am simply going to fully practice keeping my focus in 'this breath-moment' and experiencing it as fully and completely as I am able. That is all.

Before my first sitting... I shall have some tea!

*Sesshin: Jap., lit. “collecting [setsu] the heart–mind [shin]”, “concentrating and unifying the mind”; also interpreted as “touching, receiving and conveying the Mind”; formal Zen retreat; days of especially intensive, strict prac­tice of collected mind (zazen) as carried out in Zen monasteries at regular intervals. A sesshin training period usually lasts not less than three days and not more than seven.

The normal daily routine in a Zen monastery includes, in addition to several hours of zazen prac­tice, long periods of physical work, begging rounds, and other forms of service to the local Buddhist community. However, during a sesshin, which is con­sidered the high point of Zen training, the monks devote themselves exclusively to meditation. Com­plete silence is observed.

Long periods of zazen are interrupted only by a few hours of sleep at night, Sutra recitations, a short period of work (samu) and short rest breaks after the midday and evening meals. However, concentration or collectedness of mind in relation to the particular practice that the monk has received from the master (koan practice) should continue as much as possible without interruption during all these activities.

Special inspiration and incentive for the monks during the days of sesshin are provided by the teisho (Dharma talk/teaching lecture) of the roshi and the individual instruction (sanzen or dokusan) that monks often receive several times a day.

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