New Year Eve 2021

Dear Students of Hakone Zendo,
There is an interesting tension in me as I write to you on this last day of 2021.  One part wants to say something wise and positive, while the other part does not want this email to be just another pat comment with well wishes and Happy New Year!’s that tend to be everywhere on this day.
So, instead, I will ask that you participate in an email request/assignment which will take all of 5 minutes at the most….but on 2 separate days… and tomorrow.
Go outside, or to a quiet place where you can notice something in our natural world, and just breathe and BE for a few minutes.  Notice the beauty and goodness of this time,and as you breathe in allow yourself to feel your own beauty and goodness.  There is no one like you.  There is only THIS.…the world, the breath, and yourself in this moment. 
Do this on the last day of 2021 and the first day of 2022 please.  (And maybe start now so that you don’t forget today).  And repeat again tomorrow, January 1, 2022.
You are cared for.

Ann Kugyo


By Ann Meido

A time of contrasts, similar to the picture of the hills around St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista that accompany these words where I spent last weekend.
Sesshin: a time of touching or collecting the heart-mind during a period of intensive meditation.

To look closely at the photograph, one sees trees, some bare and some with foliage. The background is less definite, hidden by the morning fog. Such was the experience of sitting in silence, with others, during sesshin…a retreat from the busy and demanding routine where my life finds itself so much of the time… Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, 48 hours, spent in 40-minute segments of zazen, followed by 10 minutes of kinhin, walking meditation….all in silence with only my individual inner self…to wrestle with, to celebrate, to appreciate, to abhor. All these awarenesses arose during the hours, much like the clear focus of the trees in the forefront of the photograph. And there was misty time, less clear of thoughts, hopes fears…..of doing something which I only knew was in accord with my heart-mind…. doing something that was calling me to do more, and of which I was also afraid…of letting go of plans, ideas, thoughts, feelings, and just being quiet and still…trusting in what I did not know or understand. And which at the end of Sunday evening, tired, I knew I was grateful for having been on that sesshin.

Intention & Expectation

In December, we usually start using heaters with windows closed. Today, we sat with windows open, no heaters. We could see our breath when we talked. Surprisingly, we all enjoyed it and decided to continue sitting with windows open as long as possible.

Sue talked about intention & expectation, and we discussed our intention and expectation for zazen.

What are your intention and expectation?

Rev Ito used to say, “Don’t expect to be enlightened.”

Why we were told not to step on the edge of tatami mat

So you were told not to step on the edge of tatami mat at our zendo and wondering why. Rev Ito told me that because the edge was more expensive to repair. I researched a bit more to find out the reasons why people were told not to step on the edge of the tatami mat.

  • Wear and tear: Tatami mat is delicate and especially the edge (tatami-fuchi) can easily get damaged.
  • Respect & honor: In Japan, there is an unspoken rule about where people should seat. For example, in our zendo, where rev Ito used to sit is considered as “seat of honor” or “top seat”. Usually these seats are offered to elders & guests to honor. The seat closest to the door/entrance is considered the “bottom seat”. Old days, the edge of tatami was used to determine top seat/section and stepping on the line was disrespectful.
  • Family crest: Some tatami mat has a family crest on the edge and it was disrespectful to step on the family crest.
  • Ninja assassination: Ninja used to hide under the house(crawl space)/below tatami to assassinate and they can determine where people were by looking at the light coming through the gap between tatami.  We don’t have ninja(s) hiding in our zendo so no worries.

Now we know.