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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
summer 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 19 cushion as quickly as I once did, and my prostrations are much slower. But in an important way, what my body does is the least of it. Our practice exists everywhere, in all conditions, including times of fatigue and mental fog. Make your entire life reflect this. When you walk, walk with care and presence. Bring mindfulness to daily activities. Eat with your full atten- tion and then wash dishes in silence. Practice is your life, nothing more or less than this. The Buddha became old and weak. He walked until he needed to sit and then he sat until he needed to lie down. He didn’t hide these changes or compare himself to an ideal, or his younger self, or the other monks. He said, “Look at this,” and met each moment completely, unobstructed by change. It worked for him, and it can work for us. narayan helen liebenson: The forms of practice sometimes need to shift over a lifetime, but the essence of practice can burn even brighter as we come face to face with the fathomless treasures of old age, sickness, and impending death. These are the most human of experi- ences. As you lose everything without choosing to, and accept the natural lim- itations of this mind/body experience, it becomes ever more possible to live with greater love and wonder and less cling- ing and attachment. This is the sign of a true contemplative, not just a person who can sit endlessly on a cushion or do countless prostrations. These days, there is a lot of empha- sis on younger practitioners, which is understandable—younger practitioners are the future of Buddhism. However, you may be getting lost in concepts of time and age, believing conventional messages that encourage a reverence of youth and fear of death. In my experi- ence, older people with a lifelong prac- tice are the lights of a sangha. Many older yogis have had a practice for over half of their lives, giving them the chance to meet physical and mental limitations from a perspective completely different from the ordinary one. Asking whether one’s practice has to weaken with age makes me think that you are entering a period of rich inves- tigation. In this time of change, there is a sense of loss as well. In opening and allowing the grief that accompanies loss, a deeper dignity can emerge. What are your ideas and concepts about what practice is and what it means? Are you making practice into a separate activ- ity, something separate from the rest of your life? When you say that everything is less sharp, does that mean you’ve been attached to sharpness, that this is what you see as good practice? Is it possible to open your heart to things as they are, whatever way they are? There is a lack of energy and a lack of sharp- ness, and then there is your relationship to these qualities. One of the ways we are most condi- tioned is in our personal opinions: valu- ing certain qualities over other qualities. Can you open to how things are instead of how you think things should be? With this orientation of openness and accep- tance, we are alive to life itself and come to see that it was never ours to control. In this way, we deepen our understand- ing of patience, surrender, and grace. Older yogis with a lifelong practice have a wisdom that is hard won. They are the visible signs of the humanness of life as well as the possibility of tran- scendence. We practice for others as well as ourselves, so you need to commit to your practice with even greater diligence than you did in your younger days. Whatever posture you now need to support your practice is the best pos- ture. This is the time to adjust your practice in a way that works for you. I encourage you to start practicing with an open mind, completely free from Whatever posture you now need to support your practice is the best posture. This is the time to adjust your practice in a way that works for you. santa fe, nm 505-986-8518 upaya.org rpC@upaya.org abbot roshi joan halifax Upaya ofers a rare opportunity for people who love the dharma to reside in a deep feld of practice. Zen trainees participate in meditation, liturgy, work practice, intensive practice periods, and a diverse course of study with visiting teachers and scholars in felds such as Socially Engaged Buddhism, Buddhist Studies and Contemplative Science. Apply now for 2015 residential training program upaya zen center