Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Merry, merry!

Just a quick post to wish you and yours all the best for the holidays and for the New Year.

Friday, 9 December 2011


I meant to post this yesterday... Just a quick note to acknowledge Rohatsu (8th December), the anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment - in Japanese Buddhist traditions, in any case. So... Happy Rohatsu!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Teisho (zen talks) on MP3...

I've recently started posting a series of talks by Tenshin Fletcher Roshi and Keizan Scott Sensei on the StoneWater Notes blog (only one up so far). These were recorded at the Autumn sesshin this year at Crosby Hall, and each runs to about an hour. Occasionally it's hard to make out what the retreatants are saying when they ask questions, but the teachers are pretty clear.

Keizan Sensei delivering a teisho at Crosby, 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Holiday closing 2011-2012

As promised, here are the details for our Xmas & New Year closing.

  • The last meeting of 2011 will be on Monday 12th December

  • The first meeting of 2012 will be on Monday 9th January

A reminder that I'll be running the Rohatsu night-sitting event in Liverpool on 10-11 December - details on the SWZ Events Calendar.

[Image nicked from Rob's FB feed!]

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Still here...

Nothing much to report, weekly zazen continues.

See the StoneWater events listing for details of a Rohatsu event I'm running in Liverpool. This will be a fairly traditional overnight meditation event, or night sitting (Jp: yaza). Click below for the flyer...

Monday, 10 October 2011

October zazen

Just a quick note to confirm that there will be no cancellations of zazen in October - initially I had thought that our equipment might be needed at Crosby, but it seems this is not the case, so the Monday sessions will continue with no breaks.

No zen holiday for us! :-)

Video: How to meditate

From Yokoji Zen Mountain Center in the US (which whom we are associated) comes a new video on how to do zazen. Good, basic pointers which will really help beginners as well as gently remind more experienced practitioners!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fukanzazengi and Zazenyojinki - Translations for your perusal

So last week we finished looking at Taizan Maezumi's commentary on Dogen Zenji's Fukanzazengi, and this week we looked at the first section of Keizan Zenji's Zazenyojinki. Next week we're going to move back to some more modern texts, though we're going to carry on focusing on texts about zazen in particular, as I want this to really provide a sound basis in practice for the group. Hopefully you'll find these more accessible... and will be curious to return to some of the older texts in a while.
However, I thought it might be a good idea to provide some links to the original texts that we looked at so that you can refer back to them later if you like:
Dogen Zenji's Fukanzazengi
  • Kiezan Zenji's Zazenyojinki

  • Oddly, the Soto Zen sect has just celebrated Ryosoki, which memorialises Dogen and Keizan (sometimes referred to as the 'father and mother' of Soto Zen respectively!), who both died on 29 September of different years.
    We'll come back to work by both of these towering figures in due course, but from next week we'll head forward into the twentieth and twenty-first century for our inspiration...

    EDIT: Both the above links are broken (2016) - alternate sources for both these texts can be googled, though. Such is the way of the web.

    Monday, 12 September 2011

    Out there in me...

    A post from Genpo Roshi, originally from his blog at

    Student: It occurred to me that one reason the thinking mind is disowned is there are a lot of things that one would rather not think about. For example, why we have so much and thousands of babies are being born in rubbish heaps every day, and why corporations control governments that have millions of lives in their hands and their only motive is profit, or, you know, whatever it is, as well as of course the more personal matters.

    Roshi: These are personal matters. We can take each of those voices, like the voice of the greed that’s behind our society or the arrogance that’s behind it, and look at those same voices within our self. Because whatever the corporation is doing, I’m doing on some smaller, miniscule level. The greed, the arrogance, the ego behind it all is within me. And even though I don’t want to look at it and I don’t want to think about these things, what I suppress will come out in my dreams, will come out in my sittings, will come out in other places. So I personally think that zazen is really allowing everything to come up, to emerge, whether we like it or don’t like it, and look at it all as long as we look at it. If it doesn’t disturb us and it just goes away by itself, absolutely fine. You know, we don’t need to cling to it either, but the two things in the way — at least as I was taught and the way I sit zazen — there are two things I watch for. One is repression, of anything, and the other is attachment to it. So I’ll attach to the good things and I’ll try to repress the bad, the negative things, the negative thoughts. Both are hindrances, both become what we call makyo, devilish obstacles or obstructions in our zazen. So I would say that having that storm come up and inviting and honoring the thinking mind is a great great thing. I mean I commend you, I think it’s great.

    Student: What you said about this being personal is very true, and what I felt was that all of these things were really just me multiplied five billion times and that’s exactly why the world is messed up the way it is.

    Roshi: That’s exactly it. What is out there is in me. What’s in me is out there. Microcosm, macrocosm. So, you know, the way to work with it, the way to deal with it is to look within at these things that are within me. And we start with baby steps. One step at a time with our self, and then work our way out.

    Tuesday, 23 August 2011

    Next meeting: Monday 12 September

    Please note that there will be no Zen for the next two weeks - this coming Monday (29 August) is a Bank Holiday, and I will unfortunately not able to be in Northampton for the next week either (5 September), as the next day is my son's first day at 'Big School', and not something I can miss!

    Hopefully as the group becomes more established - and, more practically, if we are able to find storage for all the equipment - we won't need to cancel if I'm not able to be in town, but for now there doesn't seem to be any other option.

    Thursday, 18 August 2011

    October sesshin

    Details are now finalist for the October sesshin with Tenshin Roshi and Keizan Sensei, and a flyer with all the relevant info has just been sent round (click the image to download the flyer, PDF format). This is sesshin is arguably the highlight of the calendar for the StoneWater year and is a wonderful opportunity to practice with like-minded people and have the guidance of two excellent teachers.

    If you would like to attend, please email Jez Lovekin (, early booking really helps with the organisation of these events.

    Saturday, 6 August 2011

    Retreats, etc...

    I thought I'd post here a list of the upcoming sesshin (retreats) organised for/by the StoneWater Zen Sangha. The two main retreats each year are in Crosby, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn, and people come from around the UK to sit, eat and work together in a fairly traditional Zen format. Aside from these two main events, there are many other smaller events during the year that anyone is able to attend - though it's perhaps not as easy when you factor in travel time from the middle of the UK!

    I've summarised below some details for most of the upcoming retreats (more will probably be organised and details sent out on the mailing list in due course). First, though, I'd like to point to two article on the StoneWater Notes blog:
    • First, Andy Tanzan Scott has a great article called About Retreats, in which he looks at some of the reasons for going on sesshin.
    • Also, Ron Anzan Bell has prepared some more practical instructions that will be of use to anyone going on their first retreat.
    Remember that details of all the retreats will be kept on the SWZ website at, and if you want to ensure that you're kept up-to-date with the latest updates, ensure that you're on the national mailing list (there's also a Northampton one...).

    Dates for upcoming events

    A Day of Mindfulness - Liverpool

    13 August 2011
    A one-day mindfulness workshop in Liverpool - flyer available for download.

    StoneWater Lakes Retreat with Keizan Sensei - Lake District

    4-8 September 2011
    The zendo at Keizan Sensei's house in the Lake District only sits about ten people, so these retreats tend to be quite intimate. Time off in the afternoon for hill walking, usually!

    Autumn Sesshin with Tenshin Roshi and Keizan Sensei - Crosby Hall

    23-29 October 2011
    The 13th century barn at Crosby Hall Education Trust that serves as the zendo on these retreats (loads of photos from these and other retreats on the StoneWater website by the way) usually holds 50-55 people, so these are the main events of the year, and people come from all over the UK and from Europe (Sweden, Estonia and Germany recently!) to attend. Highly recommended, if you want a chance to develop your practice.

    Lakes or Liverpool? TBC

    21-25 November 2011
    Details need to be confirmed on this retreat...

    Rohatsu Retreat - Lake District

    7-11 December 2011
    Rohatsu is the main calendar event of the year for Western zennies... it's the annual remembrance of the Buddha's enlightenment, and is usually observed by holding an intensive meditation retreat in order to actualise the Buddha's great determination to attain enlightenment. Last year, we also had a weekend retreat in Liverpool that included a through-the-night sit, which was very well received and I hope to be able to repeat that this year.

    The barn at Crosby Hall during service with Tenshin Roshi

    Monday, 25 July 2011

    Zazen instructions

    We were talking about sitting tonight, and I came across this excellent, simple video from the Hazy Moon Zen Centre of Los Angeles...

    Tuesday, 12 July 2011


    I was asked last week for a draft flyer, but as I said last night I'd not printed it out. Click the preview image below to see it (PDF format):

    Let me know what you think - but I'm becoming quite attached to the "zeNN1" thing (I know, attachments = bad!).

    Sunday, 10 July 2011


    Oops, had not allowed anonymous comments - anyone can comment on posts now. Feel free! (Assuming they work - the service seems a bit temperamental today...)

    Saturday, 9 July 2011

    Monkey Mind: Koan Introspection: A Quick and Dirty Introduction...

    Had this post pointed out from James Ford, which people might find of interest...

    Monkey Mind: Koan Introspection: A Quick and Dirty Introduction...: "A friend in a recent blog posting referred to a deep question he was pondering as an 'honest koan.' As later today Jan & I are going to t..."

    Thursday, 7 July 2011

    Should I come to zazen?

    Someone asked me whether it would be OK if they came to the Zen group this week - their reservations were that (a) they were a complete beginner, and (b) they didn't want to have to make a long-term commitment.

    I guess with some Buddhist groups, this is an issue: perhaps you need to sign up for a particular course or you can't join in with a given activity until you've done some training first... and in certain traditions, this makes sense.

    In Zen, though, we don't run things like this - each week, we do the same Zen meditation that we do every other week.  Our practice focuses on the here-and-now, and we don't have any formal training curriculum that you need to follow.  Each week, anyone who is new will have the basics explained to them, and from then on we all practice at the same level.  In fact, influential Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki (pictured) famously stressed the advantages of having 'beginners mind', saying:
    In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.
    Newcomers to Zen practice bring an enthusiasm and open-mindedness that is always refreshing, and an important part of any group.

    As to whether a regular commitment is required, the short answer is 'no' - there's no requirement for anyone coming to one of our sittings to make any commitment other than for that evening.  A few people will go on to become regular sangha (community) members, but no-one should feel under any pressure to do so.  Additionally, people who do come, then miss a few sessions, should feel no embarrassment about coming back after an absence - no-one is asking anyone to account for their attendance.

    So, should you come?  Entirely up to you!

    Monday, 4 July 2011

    And they're off...

    Right, we're officially under way - our first meeting was held this evening and I'm pretty happy with how it went.  I did forget the odd item or two (thanks to Kevin for saving my bacon on the bell front!), but I'm sure it'll get more slick as we get some practice in.

    There were seven people in all, so a big thanks to everyone who came.  There's room for more, so if you're considering coming along, there will be plenty of room.  The sitting was a bit shorter today than it will normally be - mostly because I was rattling off all sorts of guidelines about 'form' and the basics of sitting, but from next week we'll observe the regular schedule.  Do note that we'll always make time to give some basic instructions to newcomers, but for the most part it's about getting thrown in at the deep end...

    We'll start zazen promptly at 7.30 next week and from now on, so try to arrive by 7.15 at the latest - earlier if you can to help set up, or if it's your first visit.

    It turns out that we share the time with a music appreciation society - this week it was American recorded music.  I think most of us were a bit worried about how intrusive this would be - regardless of my ramblings about this being a lay practice and being in the world with all its distractions!  It was far less of a problem than I'd feared though - and for some, the fact that one of the pieces was "Fanfare for the Common Man" was entirely appropriate.

    So - thanks to everyone who came along, and it's same time, same place next week.

    Sunday, 3 July 2011

    Starting tomorrow...

    Well, I picked up the keys to the Quaker Meeting House this evening (that Kevin Cooley had kindly collected for me), and it looks like everything's more or less in place for our first meeting tomorrow evening.  I am of course still a little concerned that it'll be just me in a room on my own (with far too many biscuits!), but that would be OK I guess... and I've heard from a few people who have expressed interest, so I'm hoping for a few people for our first meet.  No idea how many - and I suppose it doesn't matter really.

    Thanks to everyone in Liverpool who's chipped in with bits & bobs, and to Keizan Sensei for giving us the go-ahead. 

    Now the practice begins...