[Submitted by Chris Wagner, Chicago]
On Saturday, March 24 at Daiyuzenji members of our Zen community came together for zazenkai, the quarterly overnight retreat dedicated to the practice of zazen. These retreats are an ideal time for practitioners to set aside all other concerns and commit themselves to a sustained period of sitting meditation. Along with zazen, participants were also able to practice (and in some cases learn) the traditional tea ceremony and mealtime forms, practices which not only remind us how to serve and be of service to others but also prepare us for sesshin, the longer intensive retreats.
Zazenkai commenced with the resonant echo of the han being struck, signaling both our coming together for practice and the approaching nightfall. After opening with a brief tea, zazen was begun in earnest. Following many periods of sitting we chanted okyo including energetic repetitions of Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, lifting our spirits and giving us the energy for continued practice. The night concluded with a brief talk by Meido Roshi, who exhorted all present to delve deeper into their practice through sustained and continuous effort. Training continued early the next morning, and after taking breakfast together silently we all shared the task of samu, or mindful cleaning. After more periods of meditation we completed our time together with morning okyo and a final tea.
As we finished the formal schedule, I was taken aback at the effort we all expended in order to make this short retreat possible. This style of training can only be achieved when many of us come to the same physical space and dedicate ourselves to practicing together. The support and encouragement of others is what allows us to break through to new levels of practice, and in this regard I found much by which to be inspired. These opportunities are quite rare, so it is with deep gratitude that I thank everyone involved who made it possible for this practice to occur.