The continuing practice
For several weeks now, most dojos have been closed, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. After the last Flash Info, several teachers shared with us their experiences and the measures they have taken to support the Zen practitioners, so that they can continue the practice of zazen and the gyoji.
Here is a summary ...
Zazen at home
For some practitioners, this is an opportunity to discover the practice of zazen at home. One sits in a quiet room, on a zafu, a meditation bench or a chair facing the wall. From the very beginning of zazen, it is good to remember the instructions given in the kusen on the correct body posture, breathing and state of mind.
- In most dojos, the practice is continued by doing zazen at home, either at the usual hours of the dojo or at agreed upon times.
- The person in charge of a dojo sends an SMS reminder to the members 10 minutes before the zazen session.
- Some dojo leaders broadcast “live guided zazen” on Internet. For example in Belgium:
at the Halle dojo
and at the Jurbise dojo
- The temple of Nice broadcasts more teachings of Master Roland Yuno Rech via podcast (http://zen-nice.org/gyobutsuji/).
- The temple in Nice has also recently proposed to do a “zazen day alone at home", with four zazen at given times, samu and teachings, either in podcast or reading.
Zazen in the dojo
When zazen practice in the dojo will be allowed again, it is however strongly advised to establish security measures. The following pieces of advice has been communicated to us::
Practice zazen with registration to avoid exceeding the number of allowed participants.
Place the zafutons at a distance of at least one and a half meter.
Put at the entrance of the dojo dispensers of hydroalcoholic gel or disinfectant, paper towels, masks and gloves.
Remind participants to keep a safe social distance and to refrain from hugging and unnecessary conversation.
Regularly disinfect door handles and other surfaces regularly touched by practitioners.
After practicing alone at home, it is possible that some slackening in the body posture may have occurred, such as the rotation of the body axis or the rising of the shoulders. Because of the social distancing rule, it will be difficult to correct postures in the dojo. A dojo leader has obtained good results by giving the following pieces of advice to the practitioners and help them to do a "self-correction" of their posture:
The junction line between the knees should be parallel to the edge of the zafuton, as well as the shoulders line.
The pressure of the knees on the zafuton and the pressure of the body on the zafu should be approximately equal on the right and left sides.
The pressure of the wrists on the thighs should be approximately equal on both sides.
When we first take the posture, the spine and the neck should be tense as if we wanted to look at something far away, then we lower our gaze.
The nose, navel, thumb tip and pubic bone are on the same vertical axis, which falls exactly in the middle between the knees.
For many Zen practitioners, it is important to maintain the contact within the sangha. Fortunately, we live in an age that offers multiple technical means of communication:
There is of course the direct contact, by phone or email.
Members of some dojos are connected now through messaging systems such as WhatsApp (or Guasap) or have organized discussion forums.
- Teachings on the practice are shared by email, Facebook or podcast (for example at the temple in Nice: http://zen-nice.org/gyobutsuji/)
A dojo even offers a weekly video conference to allow live exchange between the members.
And much more
In this period of confinement and uncertainty, many people are suffering mentally, morally or physically, even without being affected by the virus. Despite personal isolation, it is important to keep an open mind to our environment:
In some dojos, help is organized for people who need it, for example by doing their shopping.
We can actively seek contact with people who are rather isolated or who do not have access to the Internet, to listen to them and support them.
"Go back to the simplicity of the practice. Are a body, a mind, a zafu and a little determination not enough?”
"In this time of uncertainty, we need to strengthen the links of relevance."
"One sangha member recorded the wood and broadcast it 10 minutes before practice: it is a reminder that it's time to go and sit.”
"We feel very connected, maybe even more than usual, and also ready to help anyone who needs it.”
"The impermanence that Roland always talks about has hit us hard this time! And our well-adjusted lives were shattered... Quite a lesson!”
"We must face this period of isolation with wisdom and compassion. For us, the basis for doing this is the practice of zazen together, the very practice that we are now pursuing in a different form, in different places, but at the same time.”
"The drums are not yet beaten, but soon the ceremonies will be possible again.”