DANA: The First Perfection

A Japanese-style zendo on a Pennsylvania hillside. I suddenly remember I too used to dream this dream, years ago. How strange to encounter it in someone else’s woods, though. It’s as if I never woke up.


After half an hour of zazen, I find the continued presence of the wooden floor with its wavy grain somehow comic: everytime I open my eyes, there it is again! Solid yet wandering.


Kettle drum.

Wooden clappers.





The growl of a stomach.

A caught breath.

A sigh.


Walking meditation: the world’s most difficult dance. So many possible steps, and none of them wrong. We go single file through the woods. If the trees aren’t laughing at us, they should be.


At the Dharma talk about honoring the body, I watch a black lab running in his sleep.


We are enjoined not to speak throughout the service. The next morning, I feel a cold in my throat.

13 Replies to “Zendo”

  1. If the trees aren’t laughing at us, they should be.

    :-) Always the Taoist rebellion, eh? Hah! We shall bury you!

    But seriously, it’s precisely the Taoist insistence on ease and naturalness that makes it an utterly impossible vehicle for me. If I have to wait till I can meditate without awkwardness, I’ll have to wait forever.

  2. I read this and forgot where I was for a moment, thought I was at koshtra, and was surprised by Dale’s irreverence *laughing*. I love how you write solid yet wandering then your mind lists the things you hear, the things that penetrate and I can see it veering off in all sorts of directions. I cannot meditate. I’ve tried. My brain is incapable of slowing and taking deep breaths. But the place is beautiful, it would revivify me; laughing at the laughing trees.

  3. I had to go to the website to find out what this photo actually was. I felt, from the picture displayed that I was inside a Zendomatic washer looking out. Or maybe in a boat docked realllly close to shore. Still, what a cool idea. A living picture right there on the wall.

    The environment of the Zen colony or retreat or whatever is perfectly beautiful. And really expensive looking. Sadly, unless they have Zen for for the chronically nervous, when I look inside I just visualize more disasters. (grin)

    But as they used to say in school. Thank you for sharing, and I will no doubt become enlightened against my will …eventually.

  4. A beautiful place to be, where you took the photo. Interesting how your place does reflect the view shown on the web site. And you dreamed of it too. Do you ever return to the same places in your dreams?

    The list of thoughts and sounds that cross your mind reflects how we can slow down the mind, but not erase it.

  5. daleWe shall bury you! Thanks for the chuckle.

    I don’t know that my comment about the trees was meant as a criticism, though I guess my sense that what we’re striving after is a kind of being-present that trees have already mastered is way more Daoist than Buddhist, for sure.

    Dana – those are sticky collars meant to trap gypsy moth caterpillars. They also catch any other insect that tries to climb the trees.

    Jo – If meditation were easy, people wouldn’t build halls like this one to try and create spaces conducive for it. As Dale says, if we had to wait until it were easy, we’d never start. That said, i do think that deeply absorptive tasks might also train one in the art of paying attention.

    robin andrea – Isn’t that more or less what Thich Nhat Hanh teaches?

    Joana Zendomatic washer Hee! Yeah, the photo was taken just inside the door, looking out toward the front yard over the offertory box. I used Photoshop to select the window portion and eliminate the glare without making the inside too dark to distinguish any of the features. That might account for the slightly artificial impression.

    I could be wrong, but judging from people’s self-introductions afterwards I think there might have been one or two chonically nervous people there.

    beth – It is quite sane, I think, and ecumentical too. What the website doesn’t say, not having been updated recently, is that they now have a full-time dharma teacher/minister affiliated with Bernie Glassman’s Zen Peacemakers order. I was quite impressed with him.

    christine – Yes, I often visit the same places in dreams.

    Fortunately, the goal of meditation isn’t to erase the mind at all. If it were, I’d want nothing to do with it, not even as a tourist.

  6. On the contrary, if they’re wearing sticky bras once hugged I guess they stay hugged!

    I think I might have equally mixed feelings, which isn’t to say many of them wouldn’t be good ones. It looks a lovely place anyway.

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