Tuesday, October 20, 2009

0 Introduction—The Zenosaurus Course in Koans—What Zen 2.0 Means

Zen 2.0 is a way of speaking about the development of Western Zen. In Japan, Zen was shaped by the students’ relationship through the teacher to the tradition. The social structure was a pyramid, though informally there was often a lot of kindness and warmth within that shape, and the transformation that occurred in the students taught the teachers how to teach.

At Pacific Zen Institute some of us are experimenting with an openly collaborative culture; we develop our understanding of Zen by practicing our spiritual methods and sharing our experience. As a teacher I’ve been very interested in the two way process—how koans open our lives and, in the other direction, what our lives teach us about what is effective about koan work.

This way of doing things has allowed us to take Zen out of the monastery and into Wall Street, the school classroom, the cockpit of a plane, the operating room, the engineer’s office and the children’s soccer practice, and the unemployment line.

When you keep company with a koan, your discoveries give us examples of how the koan can transform us. How the koan appears in your life is the important question. Zen is practical, it changes your life.

Conversation is its own spiritual practice; it help us to appreciate of the way others live and share what we have discovered. In turn this helps us to be more present with the range of our own lives. Mistakes and epiphanies, losses and triumphs—whatever is really so is the material of the koan work.

This can be tricky because one of the natural things that the mind does with a koan is to take it on an elevator to the top floor and find the shelf such things go on and to compare it with other things on that shelf and then to talk about it. The experiment here is not to do this. Instead the practice is to let the koan into the body and to sink down with it and see what effect it has on you and how it might change your life even if it doesn't at first offer you insight. You let it come to grips with you, you take the ride it offers.

David Parks-Ramage, a UCC minister interested in koans, and Rachel Boughton, who currently directs and teaches at Santa Rosa Zen Center, and I developed a small group approach to a course for koan study. The Zenosaurus course in koans is my offering of koans for this conversation.


7 comments:

Dogo Barry Graham said...

Great stuff!

fuyuasha said...

This is great, Web 2.0 makes no sense, Zen 2.0 does!

Anyways, thanks for the offer, you always make it so inviting! OK, so:
1) Sick!
2) Nurtured, almost feels like the thousands of hands again ...
3) Mmmm, not quite, need to go on a different date with this one, OK, what's it doing tomorrow night?

Mary Churchill said...

Thanks, John. This is exciting!

jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fuyuasha said...

More time, more ruminations:
1) Placebo can be medicine too if we believe it to be enough?!
2) What if I'm not ill, I'm actually more of a Dr. - I can help others get the medicine they need.

Ellen Etc said...

And the koan is also a bus stop where the bus to San Francisco arrives but then the driver won't let you on because you don't have exact fare. Then you have to decide how many years you're willing to wait for the next bus before giving up and walking back home where you started.

Angela said...

What is sickness; times when I've been sick; how it changed me.
For me, to be sick is to be stopped, re(s)trained, soaked in mortality. For example, as a young woman I experienced recurring back pain. Over time, this began to cure my chronic fantasies of perfectibility and resolution. It freed me to learn to work with restriction and injury quite effectively.

Medicines that have worked; 'cures'; surprises.
Cures for me usually feel like gifts – coming precisely from places I am not, till the gift appears, capable of imagining, and sometimes taking forms I wouldn’t have thought of as solutions either. For example the accidental discovery that just moving my body (yoga, running) could relieve depression and anxiety in a way that insight alone never did. Or being with my sister through the progression of a cancer that killed her but also enabled experiences that helped her to lay down burdens I never thought she could lose. Some paradox at work here – only soul cures feel real to me, and they’re profoundly bodily things.

Do I feel like I know who I am; struggles with identity; having a self.
I know many of my default responses – the things I fall into when I’m tired or anxious, and also a kind of background oscillation between expansiveness and withdrawal. But I’d categorise these as sickness rather than identity. My happiest and most at home state is a kind of negative capability – when I can widen and be in conversation with the world without grasping or rejecting. Have always experienced identity as suffocating, inadequate, whether conferred from outside or taken on by me.

Random images or thoughts.
Homoeopathy/poison as medicine; intertwined kundalini serpents; Isaiah’s man of sorrows. Body as world and every experience as both sickness and cure – not just that they correspond but that they’re the same thing.