Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Zazen Table

For Christmas, Jim gave me this statue of a man kneeling in meditation. I gave him automatic points for being supportive (per Jim: "anything that makes you calm down is a good thing").

The photo here is the table I sit before when in zazen, and I've added the statue to it. The table is about 14" square, sits low to the floor, and used to have little or nothing on it. I certainly wasn't planning on buying 'stuff', because I felt the plainness better accommodates the purpose of zazen. Besides, I use the table as a writing surface (my journal and copy of Katsuki Sekida's Mumonkan and Hekiganroku are kept under the table).

As mentioned in a prior post, I've firmly resisted buying Zen books or knick-knacks (i.e., no fancy tables, meditation cushions, etc.) because I felt making such purchases was placing my focus and energy in the wrong direction. In keeping with this approach, this 'table' is a plant stand Jim wasn't using and which I converted into my zazen table. I picked up the stone from the shore of Lake Michigan during my 'Pete Retreat' in October of 2006. This was the retreat where I spent a week alone in the Michigan country without TV, cell service, or people. During that time alone, I made great strides in self-understanding, self-assessment, and shed a great deal of illusion. I also wrote The Ancient Elm cycle of poetry (posted on this blog). I keep the stone on my zazen table because it is a physical reminder of the mind-set I was able to achieve during the 'Pete Retreat'.

The statue Jim gave me serves a similar function. When he first gave it to me, I was kind of like: "Hmm, do I really want this? Isn't this exactly what I told myself I would not do." But when I looked at it, I found that it depicts a man sitting in absolutely perfect zazen posture: erect but relaxed, back straight, head up, legs crossed in a full lotus (which I still can't manage too well, by the way). When I sit down to zazen, one look at this statue spurs me to my best zazen posture without my having to think about it. So I plan to keep it.

I suppose, in the final analysis, some might say that all my thinking about the statue and the table and my 'philosophy' about it is a kind of delusion. Why expend any energy thinking about this? That's a valid question. Perhaps it is a weakness on my part, but I have found that it makes a difference if I exert some thoughtful control over my zazen environment. As a result, right or wrong, my little zazen table shoved in the corner of my room is special to me. It's where I meditate, write haiku, wrestle with koans, and experience kensho/satori.

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