With the onset of the coronavirus and the way it has turned everything upside down, I had the thought of canceling our next exploration of the vows as koans.

However, I spoke with Cindy Marteney, and she was up for it, and upon looking at the vows that we are to be taking up over five Mondays starting on April 6, I felt how each one spoke to me about the current situation and I found myself looking forward to exploring it together with others, as we have with the previous vows.

We will be meeting via Zoom and since there are a number of weekly zoom talks being provided by PZI teachers and leaders that are open to large numbers of people, I’m going to limit this Monday evening group to 16. The times are uncertain and things are changing quickly, including schedules, so, to accommodate flexibility each week I will ask people to contact me to be invited and the first 16 will get invitations for that week. By limiting the size, we will have time to share with each other our experience of exploring the vow as a koan and also to share what object, or poem, or song, or memory that it is we have brought to the gathering that represents to us that experience, as a way of deepening our intimacy with the koan, with each other and with ourselves.

Taking up the vows as koans, exploring the relationship between the vows and our life is a way of becoming more intimate with who we are and gives us a glimpse of not trying to control outcomes, feelings or even our identity. When we don’t believe our thoughts or find fault with ourselves or life, freedom has the possibility of arising in unexpected places, even in the midst of prison.

Each vow is a gate into the bare field of freedom, where there are no categories and nothing to compare to life. When we meet the aliveness of the moments in our lives, even when the demons of our unskillful mind habits torment us, there is the possibility of the situation to transform, as we recognize what is arising for what it is and stop protesting against reality and our minds.

These are the vows we will be taking up:

I vow not to gossip maliciously

I vow not to praise myself at the expense of others

I vow not to be stingy

I vow not to indulge in anger

I vow not to disparage awakening, the way, or my companions

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