Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Two Practice Tips

December 29, 2015

Don’t be stingy. Our practice is a prayer for all beings: let’s be generous with it.



This past week I happened to hear something several times, and I think it’s worth clarifying this point. Sometimes people ask whether, if they are doing some activity mindfully, with a deeper, clearer awareness than normal, doesn’t it “count” as meditation time. It may be work, or sport, or some other pastime. I’m sorry once again to be the bearer of bad news… but the answer is a simple no.

What they’re describing can be called “informal practice,” and it’s surely a good thing. There are many ways to get “in the zone.” But meditating, sitting, zazen, isn’t really about the zone. It’s just about sitting. That’s what makes Zen students Zen students, sitters, practitioners of the Way – putting ourselves in the palm of the Buddha, exposing ourselves to reality, undefended, letting the universe reveal its true nature through us, and in us, and as us. Just being. What is it, to be?

When we look at the lives of the great masters of the past, who are our direct ancestors, hence we are their direct descendants, we may feel awed or inspired or both, by the diligence, rigor, constancy and sheer effort and devotion of their practice. Both before and after breaking through, they sat and sat – first to clarify themselves, then to clarify the whole universe.

We need our practice; and our practice is needed. It’s better not to skimp. It’s somehow akin to breaking the eighth precept…

Don’t be stingy. Our practice is a prayer for all beings:
let’s be generous with it.


2. MU

Try asking yourself one or more of these questions:

What is holding me back from trusting the practice of Joshu’s mu?

Right now, just this very mu on this very breath – is something holding me back from trusting it?

What would it be like to fully trust mu practice? That’s to say, to really accept that right now there is nothing else that I need except this mu?

Am I wanting/hoping this mu to be more than it is? How about if it’s OK for it to be just precisely what it is – mu?

Broadly speaking, training is driven either by suffering or by curiosity – that is, by a desire for greater intimacy with reality. The two probably in the end aren’t separate, but rather two facets of one question, as we can deduce from Shakyamuni’s story. Yet one may be uppermost in consciousness at any time. It can help to remind ourselves of why we are practicing.

(Tick tock…. none of us are getting any younger….)

Message from Henry taken from our December 28, 2015 Newsletter.
Image:  Be, by Hartwig HKD, CC by ND 2.0, from

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