Guidance in the Time of Corona #8

Dear All,

Settling you breath, settling your energy, are you protecting your own health? During these days extreme news are circulating and we need to deepen even more within. We are living in coexistence with the environment. The earth has the power of gravitation. Gravitation is protecting our health. All our actions of the day are based on this power of gravitation. When we are tired, we lie down. Still it is difficult to sleep more than 8 hours. That is because we are not absorbing enough gravity power when lying down. When we are sick and have to stay in bed for a long time, we need to have some rehab exercises to again feel well again. When we are in bed, the gravity affect the circulation of our blood flow. We have all types of paths to strengthen our health and support the blood circulation, like chikung, yoga etc.

The place on top of our head is called the fontanelle. We receive the energy of the heavens through this place (Hyakue). Below our feet there is a point (Yusen) from where we receive the energy of the earth, where we can feel gravity. The energy from the heavens and from the earth gathers in our tanden. During zazen we can use this energy and let it circulate freely. When this energy moves naturally through our body, at this point we can easily forget our body, feeling at one with this huge universe.

Hakuin Zenji taught that with each exhalation and with each inhalation we move the ki energy for 10 cm through our body. There are the capillaries in our body and parallel to them we have the meridians, the nervous system along which the energy flows. To say we move the energy for 10 cm means that these meridians are being stimulated. During one day the energy circulates 50 time throughout the whole body. Nowadays we do not count how many times we breathe each day, yet it is known from olden days. That we breathe about 13,500 times a day. This is the wisdom of Asian medicine. This flow of energy is what maintains our health.

Everyone has this energy flow, yet you might no be aware of it. It is expressed in the Chinese letter “Kan” which is part of the word “Kangoshi” – nurse. “Kan” is written as a “hand having eyes” and is read as “seeing”. A nurse can sense the sickness of a person, can feel the pulse – all done with one´s hands. The expression of the hands is happening because of the energy moving through our body. This Ki energy can be found in many Japanese words: Tenki (weather), byoki (sickness), Kuki (air), Genki (health), Kiryoku (willpower). … It is expressed in this way, because from the origin the energy of the heavens and of our body are one. The energy of the heavens being absorbed by our body is Genki, is being healthy. Simply being alive we are at one with the energy around us. Sickness, byoki, means the energy not working well. The heavens in small is our body, and our body in big are the heavens. This is how Asian medicine looks at it.

We feel separate, yet we are of the same energy which is the source of us being healthy. This is what we sense when we do Chikung, Yoga and Taichi. We absorb the energy and thus sustain our own health. Looking at it in this way, we feel taught and alive. Once we lose this, that is called death.

In our life we do face many different obstacles, and the energy flow does not happen in a healthy way. We cannot see this energy, but can feel it, especially when doing zazen we can let it settle in our lower abdomen. Zazen is a path for us to increase our energy and develop our wisdom. This is not our personal problem only, but we can receive this energy of the heavens, using our breathing, and protect our health, taking this full taught energy as most important. When we are healthy the energy is strong in the lower part of our body. When we get sick, the energy rises in our body, going against the natural flow. The energy gets stuck in our head, worry and fear create further thoughts and unsettledness. It can even get so intense that we cannot manage our daily livelihood, being emotional and not standing firmly on the ground, feeling dizzy with our head being hot. Clear decisions are difficult to make at this time.

Please see how important it is to bring the energy down and gather the energy in the tanden.

Guidance in the time of Corona #7

Dear All,

Even when we sleep at night, the inner organs work. Because of them working, that is why we are alive. Why is that so? It seems that we are one human being. We have the senses to see hear smell and taste – all of them are in the upper part of our body. When we were born, we receive a lot of data input. More and more our inner essence weakens and we desire even more information from the outside. Our thoughts increase and the essence is blocked and finally lost. We base our life upon the information from the outside. If we do not make efforts to replenish our essence, we become even more empty inside. This is our urgent need.

Our head and and arms show the part of our being which is facing towards the world outside. Then we have the belly, and we can perceive it as the head of our lower part of the body, with our legs and feet. The lower part is about our true essence and life force. It is important that we see both of these aspects.

Our organs working even while we are sleeping is due to the lower part of our body which produces the hormone of life energy. When we are born we are in inner harmony. Yet we use the upper part of our body more, receive information and start to think more. The more our essence becomes weak, the more we feel unsettled. This is the important point of our zazen: to place our focus in our tanden.

This is what the Buddha took as central, as well as the ancients before him, thus the teaching of the tanden breathing is over 4000 years old. This has been supporting our life energy all along. Yoga, Chikung, TaiChi – many different path support this inner balance. We bring the life energy back inside and raise our energy level. This is important. Keeping your awareness on your tanden, feeling the pressure there. Inhaling exhaling with the force of the tanden. Depending on our efforts, we stay with our awareness in our tanden, when standing, walking, lifting things, working and sitting. We move our body not from our head and ideas, but from our lower abdomen.

If you have some time, to sit zazen is fine. With each exhalation breathe down into your tanden. Exhale to the last point and the essence becomes stronger. Which again strengthens your tanden in return and reduces the habit to think about everything with your head.

Hakuun Shutan Zenji talks about it, how he would stay centered in his tanden, teaching is many students and doing his work from there. He would pass on this wisdom to others. We can strengthen our inner essence to the degree that our feet become warm. Hakuun Shutan Zenji would say that he felt filled with vibrant energy even at high age and could continue all of his activities.

All we need to do is to gather our energy in the tanden. If we try to do his from our head though, then we get tense in the diaphragm and cannot exhale further, not reaching the tanden. We need to make actual efforts, making our exhalation slowly longer, not getting stopped anywhere. And finally we have raise the energy level of our tanden.
Once the life energy gathers in the tanden, our blood circulation becomes more vibrant as well, the veins moving the blood back to the heart, our energy level rises even more. We can absorb more oxygen to vitalize ourselves.

There is no need for extraneous thoughts, but rather exhale one breath after the next. It is my great wish that you may continue with this inner practice, raising you level of energy so that you can stay settled and immovable within no matter what information and news may reach you from the outside.

Guidance in the time of Corona #6

Dear All,

How are you doing? We have already April, there are so many different types of news around. It is a fact that the virus is still spreading. More than 47000 people have died with this disease. Soon there will be 1 million people who have been infected by the virus. There are these facts, and then there are all the emotional talks about the situation. Thus we need to make more efforts to stay quiet within.

The breathing method has a 4000 year long history. If there is only mental understanding without a deep breath, we cannot sustain ourselves. Someone who experienced this for himself, is Hakuin Zenji.

Hakuin is teaching the method of introspection. He himself was in a mental unstable place when he receive the guidance by Hakuyu Sennin. Using this name Hakuyu to teach the breathing method which he developed himself. We breathe with our lungs, bringing oxygen and nutrition to all 6 trillion cells of our body. Human beings have become used to sitting a lot and not moving our body enough thus our breathing becomes shallow. This is the reason that the disasters nowadays have become much more intense because our breathing is too weak.

Actually there is no need to learn how to breathe, we do this naturally, but we get too involved in the information from the outside and our inside becomes empty. That is where we get stuck, and only a master of zazen will be able to breathe strongly. Our usual breathing cannot withstand the pressure put on us from the outside.

Hakuin Zenji was a great zen student, yet became sick because of too much pressure during training. From this experience, Hakuin developed the tanden breathing. When practicing introspection, we look within and exhale strongly to invigorate the ki energy. You can read about these in detail in the Yasenkana and Orategama. Yet it depends on our own efforts whether we can actually feel the change.

Now we need this practice in order to respond well to the virus disaster. And that is not all. At the same time we are being faced with many other challenges and a lot of emotional talk all around. The many political and economic regulations become pressure upon us, and our freedom is limited. Living in these circumstances, our condition becomes worse. Thus we need to actually practice. There is no mental understanding needed.

Gathering the energy within, exhaling strongly. The energy in the tanden again strengthens the exhalation and supports the flow of the energy. If we are involved in outside data, this energy rises upwards in the body and we lose our balance. So we need to return to the practice of introspection and settle our energy. This needs to be developed and it needs to ripen. Mental understanding does not help us the slightest bit.

In our life we face many challenges, not only the corona virus but cancer, heart attack, stroke – there are many sicknesses and we need strong inner energy to face these. Please look at this carefully and keep working creatively. I am not saying that you should do zazen but you need to raise your level of energy.

Please each and everyone of you, strengthen your exhalation. Use your willpower to create physical power. Please see this as most important

-Shodo Harada Roshi

Dharma Relief

The Tallahassee Chan Center along with numerous other Buddhist groups are working to help bring much needed medical supplies to the many places in need. We at Tahoma wish to support their efforts and to spread the word. They need donations, help coordinating distribution and spreading the word amongst various sangha’s. Below is information on their goals and needs, please do what you can to support this effort.
-Tendo Zenji
head monk Tahoma Zen Monastery

In facing the COVID-19 pandemic, what can we do as Buddhists? We have resorted to our spiritual practice to help ourselves and others, to be calm in times of uncertainty. What can we do collectively, joining our forces as a Mahasangha to help others?

Compassionate action lies at the heart of Buddhist practice. Today, healthcare workers are the first response to those who are seriously ill with COVID-19. There is already a critical shortage of medical supplies in hospitals nationwide, and need increases every day, with lag of several weeks before US manufacturers can meet the demand. Through the networks of the Tallahassee Chan Center (part of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan), we are able to import FDA approved class-2 surgical masks manufactured in China. We invite you to join the international Buddhist sangha, the Mahasangha, to help us procure the resources to help our healthcare workers.

Please go to the Dharma Relief Project COVID-19 website (https://dharmarelief.org/), to donate or sign up to help coordinate the distribution of masks to hospitals in your area. For details, please contact the Tallahassee Chan Center (tallahassee.chan@gmail.com). please share this message widely.

Guidance in the Time of Corona #4

Dear All,

For us to be healthy, we need to use our body in the correct way. This is something everyone knows. It is our mind which uses this healthy body. When we feel unsettled, we get red in our face. When we feel scared, our face becomes white. The condition of our mind has a huge influence on our body. We use our awareness a lot for the outside, but what is important for us is this condition of our mind. Yet this mind has no form and receives much influence from the outside. Any change in the outside and our mind will react. According to the reaction we can become quiet or upset.

Trying to align this mind of no form is not easy. When our heart is beating fast, then we cannot calm it down by will. There is an easy way of going about it by calming our breathing. Yet it needs to be the correct breathing which can bring enough oxygen to all the 6 trillion cells we have in our body. Exhaling long and inhaling naturally. For this we need to use our skeletal muscle which are moving according to the command of the brain. The heart pumping the blood through our body which is enriched with oxygen in the lungs. When we are bed ridden, skeletal muscles are used a lot less, that is where we are not using the breathing in the best way. Thus it is good to move the body so that a strong blood flow can come about. A long exhalation will also invigorate the skeletal muscles and thus the capillaries are stimulated.

Different emotions and uncertainty as well as little physical motion weaken the blood flow. When we exhale long, we again invigorate the blood flow. The lungs do not move by themselves, but by the motion of the diaphragm. Our inhalation and exhalation move through the same one breathing pipe. If our exhalation is not deep enough, then the inner pressure of the lungs does not become less. Thus we cannot take in enough oxygen while being surrounded by it. That is our problem.

If we can exhale long, then we lower the pressure in our lungs and naturally the lungs when expanding will want to take oxygen in. Thus we do need to use our awareness to again lengthen our breathing which has become shallow and short because of the outer tensions which we absorb. This is the important breathing of zazen. If we do not take this as important, while we do have the ability, we cannot contain our emotional and psychological reactions. This is the place where we have to use our awareness well. Too much noise and weak concentration is why we need to make efforts.

Please do not stop at reading this only, but actually bring this breathing practice into your daily life. Please continue and become a master of your breathing

-Shodo Harada Roshi

Guidance in the time of Corona #3

photo by krsna das

Dear All,

Are you taking your breathing as most important?

When we were born, we would express naturally, smiling, laughing, crying. We were not involved in the outside world yet. At that time we were doing Tanden (abdominal ) breathing at that time. The abdominal pressure working well. This was our start, then our youth, adulthood and old age come along. When we are young, we can lively our daily life and can be active. Our tanden breathing is used when working, moving and using a loud voice. We do not need to learn this tanden breathing, we are able to use it naturally.

Yet we receive many energies from the outside and from our emotions, we get angry, we get greedy, we carry grudges, become jealous, sad, worried, unsettled and become captive of our emotions. Thus we lose our ability to breath with our tanden and become emotional, our breathing being shallow and a balanced breath turns into a confused breath. We lose our wide and expansive breathing. The outcome being unsettled in our mind.

Actually we do not need to learn something this complicated as tanden breathing. When we were young, we already used this kind of breathing, Once we start to protect our position and ideas, clashing with others, we confuse our original breathing and cannot use it anymore.

I am not telling you something special, but only pointing out, that we need to take this original breathing as most important. Yet during many years in our daily life we got stuck to outer ideas and made it more difficult for ourselves.

The idea of an I confuses our breathing. Let go of the idea of a self, work for others, be completely what you are doing and right there the original tanden breathing appears again. A shallow breathing without any strength makes us become heavy and dark in our mind. Living in this world with a huge, warm, loving mind and act from there, this refreshes also our breathing.

Please look at this carefully, and you can see how we should be now, how we should react – this becomes obvious. There is no need to practice a form of breathing. Rather do not get stopped by the emotions and ideas arising, by the idea of our position and self. That is what is important now.

-Shodo Harada Roshi

Tahoma Zen Monastery Temporarily Closed

Governor Jay Inslee has official put in place a ‘Stay at Home‘ order in order to try to contain the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus. Residents of the state are now required to stay at home except for essential trips. Visits to religious institutions have not been deemed essential. While our practice is essential, it is incumbent upon us to practice on our own. To sit for our own well being and the well being of others. I trust that everyone will be mindful during this time and observe the Washington State guidelines for social distancing when one is out.

This order will last for the next month at a minimum. We will continue to update here and via the mailing list as the situation develops. But for now there are no events, no public zazen and no other activities planned here through May. We will offer various events virtually as they make sense. Again this website will contain the most updated information regarding that.

From the Washington State Governors Office

Gov. Jay Inslee spoke directly to Washingtonians to announce he will sign a statewide order that requires everyone in the state to stay home. The order will last for two weeks and could be extended.

This Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is similar to orders that other governors, in places such as California and New York, issued last week.

This proclamation will:
• Require every Washingtonian to stay home unless they need to pursue an essential activity.
• Ban all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes.
• Close all businesses except essential businesses.

“The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save,” Inslee said. 

The proclamation states it’s still safe for people to go outside as long as they remain at least six feet from each other. Grocery stores, doctor’s offices and other essential businesses will remain open. People can still participate in activities such as bike rides, gardening, and dog walking — as long as they follow social distancing rules.

Read the rest of the story on the governor’s Medium page.

A Message from Roshi–Guidance in the time of Corona 2

Photo by krsna das

Dear All

How are you all doing?

Are you working on deepening your breathing?

We see so many news daily changing. Of course we cannot ignore them. Yet there is no news about our breathing, that is why it is up to us to make efforts. If we get moved around by the information. If our breathing become shallow, the blood flow becomes stagnant as well. That is why we need not to ignore the information we receive through our eyes and ears, but to lengthen our breathing. 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds…. 20 seconds… the more we lengthen our breathing, the further it can be lengthened…
The breathing does not happen by itself, but it is us who is creating the breathing. Looking at this carefully, we see how we use our consciousness towards outer matters, yet if our awareness which faces within becomes weak, our essence becomes empty and we easily get confused. Our consciousness becomes shallow and we get pulled around by outer information.

With each breath, exhaling down to our lower abdomen and actually feeling that taughtness in our belly. That is how we should breathe.

From the olden days it is said that in our breath dirt accumulates. You may wonder how can dirt accumulate in the breath which cannot be seen? Greed, hate and delusion. Delusion is that darkness of mind, when our mind becomes small and has not width or depth to it. This is called: Dirt of the breath.

Our breathing needs to be wide and expansive. We bring our attention back to the breathing and not looking for anything outside. Letting our breath become smooth and calm. Peaceful. Thus it needs to be expansive, needs to be majestic so that it can reach the end of the universe. Practice to let your breath expand to the other side of the world.

When our consciousness is facing outside, that is when we lose this essence in our breath. If we only follow along with outer information and do not deepen our breathing, then we are ruining our own life energy. That is a foolish thing to do.

That which supports our life is not information but our own breathing. We need this fresh breath that can reach all the cells in our body and refresh them. There is no need for a high philosophy but simply face within and align your essence.

Please do not stop your efforts, use your breathing to invigorate yourself. Then you can face with a calm mind the outer information. For this I am praying.

All March and April Events Canceled at Tahoma

As per Washington State and Federal guidance we are suspending all in-person events at Tahoma Zen Monastery for at least the next 6 weeks. This includes all events in March and in April. We will be continuously assessing the situation and will make determinations for events in May and beyond as the situation develops.

Maintaining our practice during this time is of utmost importance and I encourage everyone to keep sitting. Please read Roshi’s words on the importance of maintaining our practice during this crisis. As we are all seamless in the ground of being when we sit, wherever we are, we sit for all beings.  There is great power in sitting together in space and time. In this time when we must be separated in space, we can still sit together in time. In order to facilitate this we will be taking some of our activities virtual.

Zazenkai will be going virtual. By the end of this week we will be setup to broadcast this via the Zoom platform. There will be a post every Saturday with the link for this weeks Sunday 8am Broadcast. There will be more details in the initial post, but I encourage everyone to download the Zoom apps. It can be used on all the major phones, tablets and computers. Download here: Zoom Client Download Center

Selected other events will also go virtual. We will announce other events as they make sense for this format.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or if you are in need of any guidance for practicing in these troubled times: Contact Us.

As always check back frequently for updates and please join our mailing list for the most up to date information on sesshin and beyond: Mailing List

Tahoma Covid-19 Update

Island County is now reporting multiple cases of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) virus on the island. Washington State has forbidden all gatherings of 250 or more people in the three largest counties. ALL events are required to allow for a minimum of six (6) feet of distancing between all participants. Projections for Washington State are sobering and we expect these restrictions to encompass all of Western Washington soon along with additional more stringent restrictions.

During this next phase Tahoma will continue to offer our daily services. All attendees must maintain the mandated six (6) feet of separation between sangha members. We have a lot of space and fairly sparse attendance during the crisis so keep at least two cushions away from fellow practitioners. State guidelines recommend that those over 60 years of age avoid all gatherings and we encourage this as well. Please read our posted guidance if you have any plans to attend zazen at Tahoma.

The planned Day of Practice for the Spring Equinox (March 21st) will not go on as planned. We will add a late morning, early afternoon and extended evening periods of zazen. People are welcome to come and sit at any of these times throughout the day. During this time of crisis it is incumbent upon us to maintain a strong practice for ourself and for all beings. Thus we will offer additional periods of zazen on this day. We will however have no communal meals, nor any residency options. Practitioners over 60 years of age should consider keeping their practice at home. Sitting on our own is of immense value and we encourage everyone to dedicate extra time to this during this time. We will post a schedule of the additional sitting times early next week. Please read our posted guidance if you have any plans to attend zazen at Tahoma.

Please continue to monitor this website for updates on other upcoming events. As of now everything beyond what is listed here will continue with varying amounts of restrictions and modifications. As always updates will be posted here, but feel free to contact us with any questions.