Yesterday, I participated in a “Life Vows” intensive class with my teacher, Hogen Bays.  I was initially scheduled to attend the full Life Vows sesshin at Great Vow Zen Monastery, but a number of things came up, and I had to back-out of that.  While having tea with my dharma sister, shuso-with-the-mostest and favorite sesshin nag Jomon (you ARE my favorite sesshin nag ;), she asked me why I wasn't there.  I gave perfectly valid reasons.

Yet they all still felt inadequate.  Very “blah blah blah”-ish.

I need to start going.

I need to talk to Hogen about it.  And I need to do so outside of sanzen.  This will take more time than sanzen will allow.

I was also signed up for the Mindful Eating workshop with Chozen-roshi, but swapped out of that as well; mostly due to money.  I'm waiting on my tax returns.  It'll be the last healthy tax return I'm going to see for the foreseeable future, and if the auto-deposit gets there in time, I may still try and go.  As to the money, I really want to use some of it to fly back to Wisconsin and see my mom and some old friends.  I haven't been “home” in nearly six years.  I want to bank most of it.  But I'm firm in that I also want to use some of it to pay for sesshin.  Apparently, it's for sesshin that I won't suck it up and go to :|

Which brings me back to Life Vows...

First off, I've participated in the “class” (as opposed to sesshin) version of this offering once before, back when Hogen offered it over a series of weekends.  I must say that I got a lot more out of it this time around, and I believe that is in no small part due directly to the reformatting of the offering into a one-day intensive.  You are allowed to stay more focused and immersed in the process, as opposed to three hours of thinking that is followed by a 165-hour interruption before you get to continue.  I will also say, though, that I'd like to have at least two periods of zazen (or quiet, reflective meditation for non-Zen/Buddhist folk) during the program.  At least two people vocalized that in the wrap-up.  I was unable to.  I agree whole-heartedly, though.  I felt that was missing, and I say that being a zazen-hater.  In this format, you're expected to think and reflect on-the-fly, and I felt a bit rushed in that regard.  I'd like to have had more time to really reflect and think about things before I was sitting in a group vocalizing about it.  Having said all that, it was a very useful day, and I tried to make the most of it.  I think I did a good job in that regard, because it's still ringing in me now, the morning after.  But again, points for sesshin.  If the intensive was helpful, and I want zazen to be included, doesn't a week's worth of this process sound good?

Anyway, vows.  Yeah.  Vows.

All the boiler-plate stuff was covered.  How a vow is both similar to and different from a promise, a goal, an oath, etc.  How a vow can help illuminate your path, inform your understanding of your own life, contextualize your vision of your own existence, etc.  But a few things made themselves very clear to me through the process.

  • I really dislike vows
  • I still have motivational issues
  • I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up
  • The vow I feel inclined to make, and the direction I feel pulled towards, scare the bejebus outta me
Here is what distilled from this class:

  1. Near-term vow(s):

    • To fulfill my ango commitment by attending every zazen period offered at the PDC (Tuesday mornings, evenings, Thursday evenings and Sunday sanzen)
    • To complete mock-ups for both the Heart of Wisdom e-newsletter and HoW booklett by the end of ango if not well before
    • To leave no task in an unfinished state (if at all possible) for the entirety of ango, and hopefully beyond

  2.  Mid-term vow:

    • To take the first five precepts in spring (on track for that), and then immediately ask to work towards jukai.  That means committing to at least two week-long sesshin this year. 

  3. Long-term (Great Vow):

    • To live life in a fully genuine way, and to offer some kind of aid whenever asked.

That point above, where I say that "The vow I feel inclined to make, and the direction I feel pulled towards, scare the bejebus outta me"?  I'll have to write about that at another time.  Stay tuned...