Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Delivering Sentient Beings #openpractice

I've decided to share my practice activities on this blog in a "Open Practice" kind of way. See C4Chaos for more explanation on this idea as I've taken it directly from him as per his invitation! I was also somewhat stirred up by the passionate call of Everett Bogue in his blog post "Why We're Here" - what he expresses about his Yoga practice is how I feel about my Chan practice. I'm not sure what it will lead to or how regularly I will post like this but I want to explore. Do feel free to join in! Actually I'm a bit nervous about it as practice is rather a personal and intimate activity in my experience.

Taking the first of the month as a cue for no particular reason I altered my practice from Monday to include prostrations.

My current daily practice:

1. 5:30am wake up
Get out of bed and get dressed. (Seriously this is vital!)

8 Form Moving Meditation
I do a pared down version of the exercises outdoors, in the manner that I learnt them on retreats run by the
Western Chan Fellowship (I'm a fellow). Most WCF retreats involve early morning exercises outdoors and standing or sitting exercises indoors between some sitting meditation periods. Interestingly some of these exercises / meditations have been around a long time, for instance the Chan Master Tsung Tsai in George Crane's "Bones of the Master" did some of the same exercises when training as a young monk in Inner Mongolia.

3. Altar set up

I light 2 candles and 1 stick of
Sandalwood incense that burns for around 30 minutes, then I make a small water offering. Finally I blow out the candles again rather than leave them burning the whole time because I find them too smoky and too oxygen hungry!

4. Prostrations

I do 108 Chinese style full prostrations (not Tibetan style where they lie right down with arms out-stretched) in a continuous flow and count using my mala. I have the mala wrapped around my wrist 3 times (to stop it swinging around) and count the beads through my thumb each prostration. I also recite A-Mi-Tuo-Fo 阿弥陀佛 in my mind while prostrating to maintain focus and I place my attention closely on the exact movements of my body and posture the whole time. It's a pretty intense workout for the body and mind!

5. Sitting Meditation

First I do 15 minutes sitting meditation (left leg on right leg) and then changed position and do another 15 minutes sitting meditation (right leg on left leg). I simply place my attention on the breath and hold it gently there. In the last two days I have found myself caught up in thoughts, concerns and plans about work quite often and have had to consciously bring my attention back to the method each time.

6. Recitation
Finally I recite the Four Great Vows, the Three Refuges and then a Transfer of Merit, all taken from the WCF liturgy.

So that is a basic run-down of what I do for my daily practice. Of course the doing is only part of the equation.

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