Monday, May 30, 2011

Evening Gatha & Everyday Life

Evening Gatha

Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
Take heed.
This night your days are diminished by one.
Do not squander your life.

My practice has resonated with the Evening Gatha since I heard the Ino at the Still Mind Zendo in New York City chant it with so much heart to conclude evening services. It’s a powerful reminder for strong practice, both for sitting on the zafu and for doing our daily tasks of life—whatever is in front of us to do. The next step. Breathing in and breathing out. Just being here, this is enough.

I found the nice Enso (“circle” in Japanese, symbolizing the Absolute) to illustrate the Gatha at the website of Converging Paths Meditation Center in Sandusky, Ohio. A bow to them and their practice.

I’m delighted to be home in the desert sunshine. I thank you all for your practice. I hope to see you soon.

—Bobby Kankin Byrd

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sitting Still Mind in NYC

Still Mind Zen Zendo @ 37 West 37th, 6th Floor, NYC

Many thanks to Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi, Kathryn Soku Shin Masary, Mauricio Rosas and Polly Perez for stepping in for me the last two weeks. This next Tuesday the 24th we will not have services but come May 31, the day after Memorial Day, we’ll be back at our zafus sitting strong and quiet. I look forward to sitting with you all again. I thank you all for your practice.

Last night I sat with the Still Mind Zen Sangha. I enjoy going to different Zendos and visiting with different Sanghas and practitioners. Everything is different and everything is the same. Sort of anyway. The SMZ is a spacious Zendo up on the 6th floor on West 17th Street two blocks from Broadway. The Sangha members were happy to welcome me. And it turned out that one, Bruce Kennedy, is a business acquaintance. He gave me a big hug. I felt at home.

It was a cool wet night—it’s been raining here for two days—so the windows were open, the city sounds drifted up to give some music to our zazen and a breeze refreshed us. Their teachers are Janet Jiryu Abels and Gregory Hosho Abels in the White Plum Lineage of Maezumi, and their teacher is Roshi Robert Jinsen Kennedy—a Jesuit priest and psychoanalyst who received transmission from Bernie Glassman. Jinsen Kennedy is respected for his work in showing how Zen and Christian practice, if viewed rightly, are pieces of the same cloth.

Tuesday nights are their primary nights for sitting, and they filled the place up with 30 or wordless Zensters. They don’t bow as much as we do; they sit toward the center one time and the next time they face the wall; their kinhin is half Soto-slow, half Rinzai-fast; the chanting is sparser than ours and of course their translations are different. I just did everything that the lady to the right was doing. How hard is that? Since the two Abels were out of town, one of their primary students Marisa Cespedes gave the dharma talk.  She spoke about contentment—accepting your life as you are and being complete with who you are. The cornerstone of her talk was Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s statement “Just being alive is enough.” Being right here is great good fortune. Breathing this breath and typing these words. There’s no other place to be, no other person to be. Later, going home on the subway (the N train to 42nd to change to the 1 train) I remembered talking to Mike Immo Dretsch about the practice of home zazen and hearing sounds—wife in the kitchen, a car going by, the neighbor’s dog barking—and not attaching meaning to those sounds. Simply letting them be sounds. If we attach meaning, then our mind follows off on a thought. The next step is to hear words—say, from a partner or a friend or an enemy even—simply for what they mean. Don’t attach the baggage of personality to hearing those words spoken to you.

When I left that evening it was 9pm and I realized that I was putting on my shoes about the same time our Sangha members at the UUCEP were taking off their shoes. That made me happy. From a note this morning I heard that my friend David Gallardo was there with his son Alejandro. David and I used to drive every Monday every to sit at the Las Cruces Zen Center. We became good friends, going back and forth. He and his family have since moved to Tacoma, WA. He had great El Paso stories about his growing up. I miss him.

Sunday morning I plan to sit with the Village Zendo and hear Enkyo O’Hara Roshi speak.