CONTEMPORARY ZEN PRACTICE IN THE BIG BEND
Appamada Alpine is a place for meditation and discussion located at 1607 N 7th St, the home of Appamada Student Vaughn Grisham. We are an affiliate of Appamada, a center for Zen practice and inquiry in Austin. Our teachers are Appamada's Peg Syverson and Flint Sparks.
Appamada is a Pali word that means mindful, active care. According to the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha, it was a common theme in his teaching and the last word that he used, encouraging his followers to fare forward with appamada—with energetic care. He often compared appamada to an elephant's footprint, which is so large that it can contain the footprint of all the other animals. In the same way, the Buddha said, appamada—mindful, clear care—contains the heart of all of his teachings.
We have adopted this name for our community of practice and inquiry because it reflects not only our aspiration as teachers, but our sense of the community as a whole, and its contribution in the world. Our practice follows the tradition of the American Zen teacher Joko Beck. In our teaching we draw on the Zen teachings and tradition we were trained in, as well as other Buddhist teachings and contemporary work in psychology, interpersonal neurobiology, language, the sciences of complexity and ecosystems, the arts, and philosophy.
Zazen—meditation in silence and stillness—and shared inquiry are at the heart of everything we do, and everything we teach. Through your participation and sincere practice you help create this community for deep inquiry into our lives and the timeless wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. This realization permeates the world through our everyday actions, words, and thoughts. Our community is connected not by ritual, dogma, or obligation, but by our aspiration and mutual care. Together we cultivate this dynamic process of waking up and growing up. This is our offering to a troubled world.
I am a Zen student of 6 years, I study with Appamada's Peg Syverson, and I serve on Appamada's Council 2, a sangha support training cohort. Please e-mail me if you have any questions.
For the beginning Zen student
Welcome to the Zen path of inquiry and transformation! Probably the most difficult part of early practice is simply giving yourself permission to do it. We are all very busy people, with many distractions, responsibilities, and commitments to others around us. However, if we are not grounded in real life, we diminish our ability to provide for ourselves and for others. Our efforts to “help” may cause more damage than good. Without true awareness, we are caught in our self-centered fantasies about ourselves and our relationships, and we miss our real opportunity to intimately experience life exactly as it is—true liberation. This practice is not easy, but it is consistent and it is sane. As Joko says, it has been around for many hundreds of years, and the kinks have been worked out of it. The changes in our lives are not always obvious; but with intelligent practice, day by day we are being transformed at the cellular level. If we are patient with ourselves, we will see the rewards in our everyday lives. Joko Beck calls this an empirical practice: All we can do is try the experiment, and observe the results.
Appamada is not just the occasional mindful thought or attentive state of mind, it’s actually a commitment to being attentive. It’s more than just a meditative state of mind, it’s more than just being mindful. It has to do with that primary ethical or moral orientation we have in life, with which we bring into being in whatever activity we’re engaged in. Whether in formal meditation, in our interactions with other people, in our social concerns, or in our political choices, it’s the energetic cherishing of what we regard as good.
The zendo atmosphere arises from the attitudes of the participants. We share this space not only to advance our own practice, but to support each other. We gain strength in our practice when we sit together. Common courtesy and consistent procedures promote awareness, stillness, and calm. Zen training requires flexibility, not rigid attitudes or actions. Guidelines are intended to support practice.
Sitting periods are 30 minutes each. Please be seated at least five minutes before the start of the first sitting period, when the wooden clappers are sounded. The bell will sound three times for the start of the sitting period, and again to signal the end of a sitting period. Between two sitting periods there is a period of mindful walking practice, called kinhin, signaled by two bells, or a short interval for stretching or changing position signaled by a single bell.
Stillness (the most important practice principle): Please sit physically still, not moving or blowing the nose; breathe in an ordinary manner (not loudly); do not look around or talk.
Quiet and calm: Wear clean, dignified, and comfortable clothing. Please do not wear shorts or sleeveless tops in the zendo. Please also avoid perfume, flashy or noisy jewelry, distracting prints, or loud colors. Silence your phones and other electronic devices.
In the Zendo
Keep your eyes down; do not look about as this is distracting for yourself and others.
Bowing: Start with palms together, hands in front of your mouth, then bow at a 45-degree angle.
We bow to express our respect and appreciation. Bow as you:
1. Enter the zendo (not as you leave)
2. Sit down (arrange your cushion, bow to it, bow in the opposite direction; sit, turn toward the wall)
3. As a person next to you bows and sits (only before the first sitting)
There is no talking in the zendo; please signal the practice leader and leave the zendo for instructions or help that requires talking.
Please do not enter or leave the zendo during a sitting. If you arrive late during evening zazen, please use the back door and take a seat in the kitchen, then enter at the break between sitting periods.
Walking meditation (kinhin)
Kinhin is walking meditation between sittings. Make mindful transitions from sitting to walking, as a continuation of zazen. At the bell to end the period, stand with palms together; at the first clapper, bow, turn to the left, form your left hand into a fist with thumb inside and place right hand over it at chest level. Space yourself evenly in the room. On the second clapper, begin slow kinhin, and at the third, faster kinhin; on the fourth clapper, continue walking briskly until you reach your seat, bow, and be seated. You may use the restroom during kinhin; please wait until the second clapper sounds to signal the beginning of the walking meditation, unless it is an emergency.
JOIN US FOR MEDITATION AT 6:10 EACH WEDNESDAY MORNING AND EVENING