Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yourself as an Instrument

"Yourself as an Instrument" number 21 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

I never tire of the 'Old Man's' encouragement. Here he points out that you are "always establishing your practice." Viewed this way, we can come to hold our practice lightly like a musician holds her instrument. We can see that there is no end to development of practice as practice. We can see how in the beginning we have a beginning practice and after much practice we have a practiced practice which both includes and transcends beginning practice.

I have just returned from Branching Moon Sesshin with the Three Treasures Sangha of Seattle. Each day we chanted the "Five Remembrances", part of which goes, " actions are my only true belongings, they are the ground on which I stand...". One of the lessons learned during this retreat is that I am comforted by Zen's admonitions to be responsible, do the work, and guard against greed, hatred and delusion. My practice, lacking or complete, is up to me and nothing else. Don't you think this is both empowering and a bit scary?

I made many projects and plans during sesshin when I could have been mediating. This is my usual way. (Work to be done here and there!) The one I'll share here is my plan to do more woodworking and slant my woodworking practice towards my Zen practice. To that end, I'll start posting photos of available wooden rakusu rings I've made and figure out a way to get them in the hands of jukai students. Here is the one in my rakusu. It is Pacific Yew wood. I have lots of this wood and can make one for you. (Post comment here or click on my blogger profile for email address.) Other woods on request.


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  2. hi Will -

    I would love a wooden rakusu ring for mine. Could I buy one from you? I have long fantasized - both in sesshin and out - of replacing the plastic one with a wooden one.

    great seeing you as always.


  3. Scott, I'd love to make you a wooden rakasu ring. What species do you want? Here is a short list of some of the woods I have immediately available.

    - Oak (Both White and Red)
    - Maple (Plain and Birdseye)
    - Pacific Yew
    - Apricot
    - Madrone Burl
    - Walnut
    - Red Heart
    - Bubinga
    - Bocote
    - Zebrawood
    - Oregon Mrytle
    - Box Elder
    - Wenge
    - Cherry
    - Lacewood

    I have others but it would require rummaging through the shop. I'm not adverse to getting some type of wood I don't currently have. The quantity needed is so small as not to be significant.

    The one I made for Pat was made from a piece of walnut her father had left her.

    You have a preference?

  4. gosh, I don't really know. whatever you think is good, is that OK? I fear I don't know my woods well enough to make a decision. any wood will do!

    yours truly and thanks mate


  5. Will--I would be honored to have your art/work for such an important part of my rakasu. May I order either a Maple Birdseye or Madrone Burl? I have no idea what Madrone Burl looks like, but madrones figures prominently in Aitken's _Zen Master Raven_ and so in my earliest days of practice, so I thought that might be a strong association to carry with me as I sit. But if you don't have Madrone handy, no worry. Any ring you make will be special to me.

  6. Barbara, I have some Madrone burl roughed out and on the bench. I'll turn ring for you to see what they look like.

  7. Hi Will,

    I just came across your page in my search for a rakasu ring. Great page!
    Might I too make a request for one of your turned pieces?


  8. Ishara, I'd be happy to supply you with a rakasu ring. I currently have Walnut, Madrone Burl and Lacewood. Here is a link to a picture.

    You can contact me via the email address in the "VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE" in the upper right corner of this page.