06 January 2012

Winter Ango

The holidays are now ending (I'm a big fan of the "leave the decorations up through the 6th" tradition), the new semester is about to begin, we're about to add some sittings to our weekly schedule, I'm feeling the need for some personal renewal, and I know what a mess the winter months can make of my state of mind (when I think back to last February and March, I just shudder in horror and shame). 

Sounds like it's ango time.

Traditionally there are two ango periods in the year.  The one, in the summer, corresponds to Vassa, the ancient Rains Retreat.  The other, in the winter, seems to be of northern provenance, probably introduced as a way of keeping some focus in the bleak of the year in China and then Japan.  I see new names showing up for the practice; in one center it's called "Training Intensive," but that sounds overly contrived to me, so I'll stick with ango, even though it's not at all an English word.

Because there is no lunar or solar guidepost for the winter ango, the time frame isn't crucial.  I'm going to mark off mine in conjunction with the center's calendar and start with sesshin next Friday and end with Temple Night/Jukai on April 20.  That's a bit over three months, it includes two sesshins and two zazenkais, and it ends with a statement of renewed resolve to live the precepts.  Perfect timing.

The plan is pretty simple: increase daily sitting and take steps to eliminate one particularly strong focus of habit energy that I've identified as a trouble spot in my practice.  I'm not looking for a "new and improved" me at the end of all this, just a bit of the release from dukkha I know comes when the Dharma is pursued with vigor and determination. 

What more can one ever hope for?

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