VIDEO: What the ZEN are You Doing?
Anyone who knows me will have noted by now that I'm often heading up to "the mountain" for a weekend. When someone tells you they're going to "the mountain" they usually mean snow boarding, camping, or ice sculpturing. "My mountain" is not like "your mountain" - "my mountain" is the "Yokoji Zen Mountain Center." A Zen Buddhist temple of the Soto sect or school that is nestled in the wilderness of Southern California's San Jacinto mountains.
NOW JUST WAIT A SECOND! Before you go calling me a new aged granola Ralphing tree humper I think you should know one very important thing: Zen is all about hardcore and boring reality. Upon visiting this place you'll quickly learn that any airy fairy guru-of-the-week pretense is about as interesting as... well, as the 8 hours of sitting meditation that a Zen practitioner does in any intensive training period there. YAWWWN! Yes, I said 8 hours of sitting per day! - and this is a light to middle-weight American Zen temple. In the East some places have 12 to 16 hours of sitting (or zazen) per day where they don't even stand to stretch their legs for an hour at a time! Yea... you can wave goodbye to your beautiful Buddha lotus flower sun dress or your inoically charged healing bracelet. Here, it's plain black attire and sore legs. But when you realize that you are completely content with your legs being sore and your cloths being blah then you know that you're onto something...
Ok, I'm running you off the rode, let me come back to it.
Meditation is big in Buddhism and especially with Zen but there is much more to this practice than sitting on your ass; it's a total way of living. Religion, political beliefs and sexual preference/s are all non-issues with the Buddhist lifestyle. Zen goes even deeper and aims to detach you from even the believe in Buddhism, Zen itself, and even any type of 'aim' in general! It's this approach that made me so interested in Zen. No BS!
The Zen temple lifestyle is hard: you wake up before sunrise, immediately sit for long periods of time, work long periods, eat vegetarian meals in relative silence, and are early to bed. All of the normal comforts and pleasures that are experienced in even lower class homes are all but absent. As you lose your normal habits, though, all of the negative baggage that comes with them are also dropped - so there is a reason to it all. To take on a journey such as this requires a MASSIVE amount of courage. This a courage to lose everything and gain nothing and then when you're done with that you need to lose your attachment to courage as well! Not an easy thing to do nor understand. You'll find that as you see past all of these hindrances in your life that you're able to see something there that you had completely forgotten about - and you wonder why you would have ever wanted to avert your gaze from it. "Jordan! What the ZEN are you talking about?"
To get a taste of the day-to-day at Yokoji Zen Mountain Center I present to you a short video running through a day in the life of a Zen Buddhist community (sangha). This film was beautifully directed, shot, and edited by Jim Lakey - or Yugen as he's called as a resident monk at Yokoji. Dying for more Zen? Visit their website at www.zmc.org for more information and video talks by Master Charles Tenshin Fletcher - the abbot of the temple. Enjoy the show.
DISCLAIMER: Make no mistake - I am no where near the level of dedication and discipline as the people in this video.
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center: A Short Film -- Directed by: Jim Yugen Lakey