Samu

One of the oldest & yet to-the-point Zen pointers is: “Chop Wood, carry water.” My North Country sangha came round today & stacked wood. They had no need to carry water since it was pouring out of the sky.

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  • Samu: Work practice; work undertaken with full attention to the task.
  • Sangha: One of the three treasures, the community of practitioners.
  • Three Treasures: The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha. 

Sangha

I have been so calmed & uplifted just now by the visit with my North Country sangha1 this morning. The sangha is one of the “three treasures” of Buddhism, along with the Buddha & the Dharma. It is not impossible, but it is very difficult, to practice Zen outside the context of a sangha.

My friends came just before ten, we sat fifteen minutes of zazen, our dogs being remarkably & unusually quiet, then they went out & stacked our firewood for two hours in the pouring rain. After that samu,2 they came in again & we drank tea together. Doesn’t sound like much, you say? I cannot even begin to express how precious this contact with my fellow Zen students is at this time in my life. At any time, yes, it would be lovely; but given my pain & the lethargy that follows pain, the transformation of mind / heart / body I feel right here right now is almost unbelievable. One is not used to medicines that work so quickly & dramatically & to such good effect.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Sangha (Pali: सङ्घ saṅgha; Sanskrit: संघ saṃgha; Chinese: 僧伽; pinyin: Sēngjiā; Tibetan: དགེ་འདུན་ dge ‘dun) is a word in Pali and Sanskrit meaning “association”, “assembly,” “company” or “community” and most commonly refers in Buddhism to the monastic community of ordained Buddhist monks or nuns.
  2. Samu (作務 samu?) refers to physical work that is done with mindfulness as a simple, practical and spiritual practice. Samu might include activities such as cleaning, cooking, gardening, or chopping wood. Samu is a way to bring mindfulness into everyday life as well as to get things done. Samu is popular in Zen monasteries, particularly as a means of maintaining the monastery and as practicing mindfulness.

Happy New Year

It was only an accident that I was awake for the actual moment of the new year’s arrival. Neither Carole nor I have been awake for the turning of the year in many years and last night we went to bed, as usual, around eleven o’clock, but one of the terriers woke me up jumping on or off the bed at about five to twelve. I can’t read an alarm clock without my glasses, so we have one of those old-fogie jobs that projects the time on the ceiling. The dog settled back down and I lay there watching the red numbers tick away to midnight. Very peaceful. This morning we drank black coffee & ate steel-cut oats with dried cherries, pecans, and brown sugar. I put half & half in my cereal; Carole virtuously put buttermilk in hers.

So anyway, every once in a while my friend (and frequent commenter on this blog) Ed Mycue sends me a sheaf of poems, which I read and put in a folder. Yesterday as I was trying to organize some manuscripts and drafts in a file drawer, I pulled out a stack of Ed’s poems. This one was on top — I think it may have arrive around this time last year — and I thought it would make a good New Year statement. Tempus fugit & all that.

Wellness Report

i press on slogging through the daily shit with a silly smile on my lips possibly. up to my ankles in new ideas and dead friends. you can’t stay mad at life although madness is a condition with a long tail. and has a zoom lens. the labyrinth snakes through dreams switching evolutions and exchanging stigmas. ah me, said the iceland singer as she took another swing at the australian paparazzi.

That pretty much sums it up, I think. I’ve put out fresh suet and scattered seeds for the winter birds — it was ten below this morning when we woke up, but the sun is shining & we have a roaring fire going in the wood stove