Posted inDogen, Valerie's Messages

Message from Valerie: Before Knowing

June 7, 2023

In coming and going, we never leave home.
~ Hakuin, Song of Zazen

Last week I returned from a four-week sesshin or ‘mini-ango’ in a serene mountain Zen center in the Black Forest region of Germany. The experience brought to mind Hakuin’s ‘Song of Zazen.’ Going and returning, never leaving home. Just one sitting. Boundless, timeless; going nowhere – and yet, how lively!

The theme of the sesshin was Practice-Realization, Dogen’s name for what we do every time we sit. Zazen – with its basic elements of assuming a balanced posture, following the breath, and allowing the mind to settle into the dynamic stillness of each moment – is itself an expression of who we truly are. As my colleague, John Gaynor, has often put it: awake, aware, alert, alive

Ango, an extended intensive practice period, means ‘resting in peace.’ Resting in things just as they are. There is an intrinsic wholeness to this rest. Whatever arises, complete, lacking nothing – and empty of any fixity, any solid substance, and any possibility of separation.

To taste this peace is to rest in what Dogen calls ‘before knowing.’

As we turn toward the Summer Sesshin at Mountain Cloud, the invitation rings out: join us for this period of shared practice-realization. Rest in the wonder of ‘before knowing’ and find yourself at home exactly where you are. 

Photo by Daniel Seßler on Unsplash

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