> jumping into life.

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I miss the chanting.

I didn't expect to like chanting. I didn't expect to like bowing, or offering incense, or any of the myriad ways in which Zen reminds you that it is religion. Not just comfy mindfulness and relaxation, and regardless of the presence or absence of God or gods--religion. It was actually a bit shocking to me, daughter of a minister's son who had never been to church, to realize how very much I loved the trappings. I loved the way all our knees hit the ground together, making the zendo shake. I loved the way all our voices sounded together, with the beat of the drum and the bells to mark the way. I loved the statue of Buddha and the statue of Avalokiteshvara, the flowers on the altar, the smoke rising up. I loved the robes, the candlelight, the worn edges of the chantbooks.

And I loved the chanting.

At 5:40 at Tassajara there is an evening service where we chant the Daihishin Darani. Often at that time of the day I would be hot and grumpy, having woken from a nap to work at 4. I never wanted to go to evening service; it always seemed like an inconvenience and a chore. But once there, with the cool darkness of the zendo and the warm buzzing of voices, somehow the grump and gore of the day would slip away. I always came out happier and calmer than I'd gone in.

On the rare morning that I skipped zazen--electing to sleep, or occasionally having to work--I felt a strange distance from the community. The mornings I had to skip service for work, I felt the same. Something about that hour spent harmonizing our voices harmonized something deeper as well.

I miss it. I miss that shared intention, the choral union, the feeling that I have a place to be and something to add. It made me reconsider my feelings about religion in general, moderated heavily what had before been a feeling mostly of contempt. Suddenly it made sense that people would take time out of their week to gather and sing and pray and praise. Suddenly it made sense that those relationships would be special, if indefinably so. Suddenly, now, it feels like an absence. I can sit on my pillow all I want, but it's hard to make harmony with only one voice.

Ah, but you're making a harmony here that many of us resonate with. So it's still with you, I think.

Thanks, Jean. Community here is lovely, and important, but it's different to actually have voices out-loud, y'know?

I love the sound of the chime and even more the rich, deep sound of the gong. Most of all, though, I love the chanting, especially when it becomes an endless drone that resonates within the deepest part of me and feels like an engine that keeps all of us alive. I so love the chanting....

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