Week 1: The Zen Retreat & Spring Cycling “Camp”

 This is the first of our three weeks at a Zen retreat in a rural village on the island of Kyushu, Japan. 
 
Even though we struggle to stay awake until 9pm, the 5am chime on my phone still comes far too early.  We then get ready to settle into our cushions in the temple at 5:25 when the monk arrives for his 30 minutes of chanting.  Then it’s 30 minutes of zazen (sitting meditation), a few minutes of kinhan (walking meditation), and 30 more minutes of zazen.  Tea time is 7:05.
 
There’s no breakfast as the monk says, “breakfast is poison”. No doubt a bit of Zen hyperbole. We sneak some fruit from the stash in our room. I’ll take a bit of poison, arigato gozaimasu.  
 
Alison and I have coffee, then I do 30-45 minutes of yoga, sometimes in the temple, sometimes in my room by following a series of videos on the iPad, which brings us to Samu (service to the temple).  Samu is often simply weeding, but sometimes digging up the vegetable garden or raking leaves on the path in the bamboo forest. The first and latter items are perpetual chores, the point of which is very Zen, in that there’s obviously no point. 
 
Then lunch. Mostly it’s stuff from the garden, plus maybe miso soup, marinated mackerel, and gohan (rice) or soba noodles.  No meat yet. One day I helped make handmade udon noodles, which were oii-shi (delicious).  Jiho, our monk host, says we should only “eat to 80%”.  It’s hard to measure, but we definitely aren’t eating anywhere close to Thanksgiving Day fullness.  
 
 
For everyone else, the afternoons are either personal times or excursions with Jiho in his car.  So far these have included trips to a local onsen, or a historical site.  I’ve joined them to the onsen, but my afternoons everyday include a bike ride.  
 
The roads within a 30 mile radius are very small, very hilly, and have few cars. Some roads turn into paved cycling paths deep in the forest, some simply disappear.  My touring bike is perfect for this type of riding. 
 
 Typical road in the area, and below a woodland cycle route…
 
 
The bees must be a serious problem to warrant a road sign!
 
 
And of course, there’s the tunnels…
 
(Speaking of Jiho in the car. I think he’s a reincarnated Formula One race car driver.  Riding with him is not for the faint of heart.)
 
Dinnertime is a Leasure World Early Bird Special, normally 5pm, but Alison has gotten him to almost 5:30. 6:00 is clearly out of the question.  Like the rest of Japan meals, dinner looks a lot like lunch, and breakfast too, if we ate it. 
 
Then it’s hanging out, reading, socializing with the other guests (max 4) and forcing ourselves to stay awake till 9:00, ‘cause that 5:00 phone chime will be right around the corner. 
 
Those two spots are where Alison and I sit in the temple. 
And that’s Fabian, the Italian Bhuddist, doing some martial art thing.
 

 

 
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~ by rjmang on May 8, 2017.

2 Responses to “Week 1: The Zen Retreat & Spring Cycling “Camp””

  1. Been thinking about you and Alison and hoping you are finding peace and joy and maybe a burger in the nearest village:-))).

    Like

  2. No burgers, but today went shopping for stuff to make an Italian dinner tomorrow night. Even found a nice Borolo and some Parmesan cheese!

    Like

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