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Flip flopping along the middle way

March 17, 2017

Flip flopping along the middle way – examining my Buddhist practice

Recently I’ve been struggling with my Buddhist practice, this is nothing new, over the last ten years I’ve changed the core of practice several times.

I began in late 2005, firstly as many others who approach Buddhism by reading and home practice, the following year I began weekly practice in Sheffield with a small Zen group with Bob Bowles, as always money was tight and I wasn’t able to attend the retreats.

In 2007 the Zen group changed it’s schedule, it was now on the same night as my main Aikido class (Tuesdays) having recently passed 1st Kyu, I had to make the choice between Zen or Aikido practice, I chose Aikido and continued onto take my 1st Dan in April 2008.

Throughout 2007 to 2009 I continued to practice Buddhism in the Zen tradition at home. I also tried a few NKT meetings and did some Buddhism correspondence courses.

After getting married in 2010, I decided to try and re-establish contact with Bob Bowles, only to find that the group had closed.

I took a break from any kind of regular practice, for over two years (I continued to read and study) in 2013 I read a book about Nichiren Buddhism and I began to chant at home, the following year I became a member of the SGI and took part in local district meetings and events (I also took my grade 1 exam with the SGI) in the following year I began to organise and host meetings and events.

However I often had a feeling of what if…

Flip / flop / flip / flop…

So in the late summer of 2015 I returned to my Zen practice with a small group in Bolsover (run by Mark Shawcroft originally part of the group in Sheffield) I attended the seven day retreat last year (taking the money from my savings) I asked Kaizen Sensei about taking Jukai, but this would take time and more retreats (which I couldn’t afford) so after some post retreat depression I began to chant again, hoping to re-connect with my SGI practice.

Now my former district has been disbanded, and more and more I feel despondent with my practice, I simply don’t enjoy gongyo or feel any connection with my gohonzon at the moment.

So I’m in that same situation again, do I drag myself reluctantly in front of the gohonzon to perform a half hearted gongyo, or do I enjoy sitting in silent meditation in my own practice, in the knowledge that I may never be able to afford attend retreats or take my vows (jukai).

Flip / flop/ flip /flop…

I know that to make any progress, I have to make a strong commitment to my practice, am I simply taking the easy way out and running away from my SGI practice because I feel deadlocked, or is my reluctance (to chant) brought on by a deep seated feeling that, that particular practice just isn’t for me.

So here I am at the moment, I was told this year by an SGI leader (with no experience of any other form of Buddhism) that you can’t mix your SGI practice with Zen, you can’t practice mindfulness alongside Gongyo, also that I have to practice at Sheffield now, it seems that I’m not free to choose where to practice.

Is my desire to go back to meditation practice, a simple case of laziness, It’s all very well to escape to a Zen retreat and feel great for a few days, breathing in the incense infused  country air, and soaking up the silence, while robed priests ring bells, but that isn’t the reality of my life either.

My Buddhist practice has to make sense and pertain to my life, this will take a lot of self investigation and reflection….

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