by Wonp'ung (Miyo)
If you’re reading this and you’ve attended service recently, you’ve noticed that we have new Liturgy books, which have a little more to them. There’s a lot in the new book that I’ve really enjoyed--a couple of things really stuck out to me:The first is the section about 20 minutes of Zen. It outlines how we can, quite easily, inject 20 minutes of a Zen practice into our day. Not too long ago, I would have thought “I don’t have 20 minutes.” Now, I’m thinking “I can spend 20 less minutes on FaceBook for sure.” This prompted me to add the ritual of 20 minutes of more formal practice at home - something in addition to my daily sit.
In the past this is something that never would have happened - coming from a secular background, and not having grown up going to church, and with parents who heavily mistrusted anything that resembled organized religion, Zen practice as outlined in the liturgy book would have been something I avoided.
Now, here I was, reading up on how to add a more ritualized practice to my day, and coming up with ways to build an altar! (Insert gasp here). The picture above is my home altar: Two candles, and two Buddhas on a window sill. I wasn’t sure at first if this was just too basic…but I’ve been assured it’s fine. Because our old farm house is tight on safe spaces for a permanent home altar, these all get put away in a cool wooden box that I found at a store, and are kept put away until I’m ready to use them again.As of this writing I’ve only been doing this for a week. While I understand where my old misgivings of ritual came from and why my parents (and others) have them, this ritual has become a valuable way for me to create a quiet, sacred space for not only meditation, but for contemplation and practice of the teachings. Going through the motions of getting out my candles and statues, removing my shoes before sitting on the mat, bowing as I light the candles and after blowing them out, all have become physical signals for my brain to adhere to the idea “now, we study.”
Another part of the new Liturgy book that I have appreciated is the section walking us through meal-taking. There are three pre-meal prayers offered in this section which made me happier than I really ever expected to be over something like that. “Saying Grace” is another ritual that the family I grew up with never did and turned up our nose at…but what I really enjoy about these prayers is the acknowledgement of the work and sacrifices made by individuals in bringing the meal to the table--from the person who prepared it, to the farmers who grew the food, the workers who cultivated it, and the drivers who brought the ingredients to the stores, the workers who tended to them, set them up and helped us acquire them. Without any one of those steps, I wouldn’t have the meal that sits before me.
I was so enthusiastic over these prayers and how they are worded, that I’ve made a laminated card to leave in my lunch box so that I may give thanks before taking my meals at work. No one else in my household is a practicing Buddhist, so I won’t be asking them to say the prayer with me, but I do say the prayer in my head before I take my first bites of a meal at home now.
I am truly grateful for these additions to the new Liturgy book! It’s brought some great new additions to my practice, and to my day.
A blog by the Lotus Heart Zen Meditation and Study Group members