day 44

Good. Zazen, 30 minutes. A quiet room. Thoughts indistinct, like hand shadow puppets forming fleeting shapes. A deep relaxation and warmth. Joyful, but not blissed-out. Just a few moments where thoughts crystallised into words towards the end. Set up for Monday.

Discipline: 9/10.

day 43

30 minutes of stealth sitting. This is not ideal, but better than nothing. On busy weekend days when I haven’t gotten out of bed early enough to make time to sit, 30 minutes of sitting in as meditative a state as possible without making a fuss of it isn’t a bad alternative – so long as everyone else is busy enough to not really notice, that is. Good practice for zen through the ordinary day to day and not just when sitting which, I suppose, is what it’s ultimately all about.

Discipline: 7/10.

Note: published the next day.

day 42

Sat beneath a hawthorn tree. A steady stream of white noise thanks to a nearby road, punctuated with various sounds arable and natural. At times I opened my eyes to observe passing creatures, to no detriment to my concentration that I could tell. A harlequin ladybird landed briefly on me. Faint glimpses of kensho, perhaps – or at least a glowing appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things. Thoughts, inevitably, but none clung to.

Discipline: 8/10

day 40 and 41

Thursday: an early start for a train to London. Did my sitting in a quiet carriage, feet planted on floor so I look like I’m just relaxing (which, in a way, I am.) Motion and hum of the train helpful. Couldn’t help smile at the roar of a train motor grinding up to speed on the platform – something I haven’t heard in a long time.

Discipline: 7/10.

Friday: 30 mins zazen before sanzen. Should have gone out to the studio. Woody (a whippet) kept asking for something. Always happy to help, but couldn’t figure out what it was. It’s usually food or bed-related, but not this morning. In the evening he did it again, and we figured out he was asking for his new pain killers for his troublesome back.

Discipline: 2/10.

Note: published Saturday.

day 39

Zazen. 45 minutes. Zoom. The sound of two winds – murmuring among trees and eddying about the walls. The white noise of a climbing jet liner, not long out of Stansted. An approaching weather front. No pigeons.

Discipline: 8/10.

day 37 and 38

Failed to sit yesterday, so an hour of meditation this morning. The mornings are becoming crisp which makes sitting a bit easier. Need to find the place to do my sitting, now. The weekend proved floor sitting is perfectly doable for me. I just need to make a little place to do it – ideally first thing each morning, then perhaps again in the evening if I have time or feel like it. Beautiful clear morning, this morning. Towards the end of zazen, golden rays shone in through the blinds and brilliantly lit the room.

Discipline: 7/10

day 35 and 36

Saturday, I crossed London and headed west to meet and sit with my sangha in person. It was an important day for my teacher in particular, as an inka ceremony was taking place that afternoon. I was nervous because this was my first time practicing with others in person, and after I arrived, and the sense of religiosity about proceedings grew, my flight mechanism kicked in. I started to relax once the actual sitting commenced and quickly settled. No, I reassured myself – this is just sitting – and though there is religiosity around things, it’s really just that a bit of process helps everyone know what to do. There’s nothing to believe. Fundamentally it’s just sitting and not thinking about anything. But, I settled into it rather too effectively. And after an absurdly early start, I found my head nodding once again. And, sitting with a group, I had a sense of letting the side down, and, very quickly, a panic attack ensued. This passed quickly (thanks in no small part to the zazen and deliberate breathing, I imagine.) After that, the rest of the day went much better. Did what must have amounted to several hours zazen and kinhin, plus my first in-person sanzan with my teacher. The afternoon ceremony was lovely, and made an impression. I’m not sure what shape yet. As I’d hoped, group sitting in person does make it much easier to keep a still mind. Sunday I headed back east and did my sitting, feet on floor, in quiet train carriages.