memory – San Jacinto

We had a partial lunar eclipse on the October 28th full Hunter’s Moon, celebrated these days as Halloween. I associate this time of year with my first experience of jhana in meditation at a group retreat at Yokoji temple, where I had taken precepts in the Soto Zen tradition. I had been practicing a great deal with Shibuya Sensei for about a year and was determined to get it, whatever it was. After that particular period of zazen, we did Oryoki (ritual meal on the cushion) and pumpkin soup was served in honor of Halloween. So naturally, years later, I thought it would be great to bring Sensei to Yokoji. So on a Summer weekend around 2001, I arranged with Tenshin Sensei (who’s been abbot there since Maezumi Roshi passed away) for us to stay over for a couple days’ private meditation retreat. We meditated and slept in the room under the Summer Zendo, which I had helped excavate some 5 years previous during retreat Samu. Sensei often quoted Buddha, saying the best place to meditate is where you sleep (meaning home). And we took that literally. Early in the morning I’d open my eyes to see Sensei preparing for zazen, and roll myself up onto my cushion at the foot of my bedroll. An hour later I’d stumble into the bathroom to wash up before another hour. It was hard. It was casual. It was really wonderful practice. After we completed our retreat, and were driving down the dirt road to the highway, Sensei pointed out the ridge line calling it the 7 sisters peaks, and we pull over to go for a short walk. Hours later we return to the car invigorated by our hike up to Apache Peak and back, thirsty as we hadn’t prepared, thoroughly satisfied by our efforts, breathing on and off the cushion. Sensei wasn’t interested in Buddhist academic study, and often said that meditation itself teaches you. His catch phrases of “Just Meditate” and “Breathe Nicely” years later became “Be Happy and Strong”, which of course comes from breathing meditation.

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