Encouraging Words from Imelda Carlson

From time to time, we publish short articles from AZG teachers, who talk about aspects of practice we might not otherwise consider, and to encourage us to continue. Here, AZG teacher Imelda Carlson writes to us about practice in life as well as on the cushion.

September 18, 2021.

When we look at Adelaide Zen Group’s program for the year we may make plans for the coming year’s practice: which sesshins we’ll go to, how regularly we’ll sit with the Sangha, how attentive we’ll be in our daily life practice. All commendable and praiseworthy plans.

But as the year goes on we may find that work and family and perhaps a pandemic get in the way of these plans and we can’t fulfil them.

What we can always fulfil is our daily life practice.

Daily life practice is the complement of sitting practice but it is a hundred times harder to do. Its rewards, however, are immense, as it is the path to living in peace and harmony with all beings. If you want to truly engage with the world then balance your sitting practice with a regular practice in daily life. Without a daily life practice, zazen won’t bear fruit. It becomes like a green plant that is confined to a dark cupboard. It pales and has no direction in which to grow. Eventually, the question will be asked: Why am I doing all this sitting, and there will be no clear answer.

To begin a daily life practice, start small, and it is best to choose an activity that you quite enjoy doing – after all, why make it hard for yourself? An activity that uses the hands is ideal as the movements of the hands and fingers are precise and small and the eyes naturally follow such movements.

The kitchen is a good place to start. In fact, the kitchen is rich in opportunities for practice; ask any tenzo (the sesshin cook).

So suppose, for example, I set myself to fry onions, a simple kitchen task that I enjoy doing. I plan to do that task just as it needs to be done, nothing extra. I put the onions in the hot oil and there is sizzling and steam and aroma. One hand stirring the onions. Ah, this is the way to cook!

There – I’ve strayed in the first ten seconds. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is the return to the practice. Back to the stirring, sizzling, steam and smell.

No one practices all the time, continuously.

Practice involves a lot of straying and then returning. Straying from the path doesn’t matter – it is the return that builds strength. The more often you return the better you get at returning. Nor does it matter how long are the intervals between straying and returning. The intervals may be minutes, hours, or even days. Only the return matters. Gradually, the repeated returns wear a well-worn path that one willingly treads.

You may have tried a daily life practice and found that you couldn’t keep it up and you let it lapse with the thought that it was too hard, and it would be best to leave it to a later date after you have done more sitting. Or you may think that it is too hard for beginners and it is only for senior students. You are getting in your own way with such ideas.

Just keep returning to the task as it needs to be done. No separation from it. Straying from the task is not a failure, but with the return you are the master. Each return, each coming back home builds strength and perseverance and habit and reveals a place of rest within our daily chores.

The key is to keep at it. You will be surprised at how quickly daily life practice bears fruit.

No Sitting at Hutt St. on 29/8/2021

(Post: Wed, 25/8/2021)

A note that there’ll be no sitting at Hutt Street this Sunday, 29th of August. The AZG weekend Intensive, which was delayed due to lockdown and restrictions, has been rescheduled to this weekend.

See you all again next Sunday, the 5th of September

Jiki Training – Sunday August 15.

On Sunday August 15, Craig Behenna will lead a training session for the Jiki leadership role. If you’ve wondering how to get more involved in the zen group and what a leadership role involves, this is a perfect way to dip your toe into the waters.

If you’re interested in learning how the role works, if you’re curious about how the sound of the bell and the role of timekeeping can help your own practice and also help those around you, please join us! Training will at 11am after Sunday sitting and will last around 1 hour.

Sitting In-Person Is Back!

We’re back! We’re now sitting again on Sunday mornings (9am-11am) and Thursday evenings (7:30pm-9:30pm).

Please wear a mask when you attend. Checkin QR codes and paper sign-in options are available. We’re also following SA state government guidelines re the number of people in the zendo at any one time. These numbers will very a bit as conditions change. If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be in touch.

SA Lockdown: No In-Person Sitting at AZG For 7 Days

Dear friends,

You may have heard that South Australia has gone into Stage 5 restrictions for seven days from 6pm on July 20, 2021.

This means there’ll be no sitting at Hutt Street on Thursday 22/7 or on Sunday 25/7. If you’re on our mailing list, you should have had an email to confirm this.

We hope things return to some sort of normal after our week of isolation. At this stage plans remain in place for our in-person weekend intensive at the end of the month, but we’ll be in touch once we get through this seven days. Watch this space and keep an eye on your emails for further info.

Please stay safe and we look forward to seeing you all soon.

Welcome to the Adelaide Zen Group Blog!

Photo: Xuan Nguyen

Welcome to the first post of the AZG blog!

If you’re involved with the Adelaide Zen Group, if you’re interested in what we do, or if you’re just curious about Zen and want to know more, check back here regularly for updates and articles about the AZG and what we’re up to.

On the blog, we’ll feature:

  • Encouraging words from our teachers
  • Updates on events
  • Info about our regular weekend intensives and sesshins (longer retreats)
  • Important updates from the AZG committee
  • Other things we’re finding interesting in the group and the wider world of Zen practice

The blog is an evolving project, so stay tuned – and let us know what you’d like to hear about.


Craig Behenna