Ango, You Go, We All Go

Starting tomorrow, I will be observing the winter Buddhist abstinence called toango (冬安居) until January 15th, or the full 90 days. This is the Japanese-Buddhist version of the ancient rains retreat in India, though the term ango is primarily used in a Zen context.

In that Zen context, it is usually a time of more dedicated Buddhist practice, vaguely similar to Christian Lent, but includes things like more dedicated meditation practice, abstinence from meat and alcohol, and so on. Because it’s such a long-haul (90 days), I think the key is to do a sustainable practice and not try to be an overachiever and burn out.

Since taking a renewed interest in Soto Zen, I have managed to keep a fairly consistent routine. I follow the super short otsutome chanting (linked above), usually in the morning, sometimes in the evening too. I don’t do zazen meditation every day, but usually every other day, roughly 3-4 times a week, for about 12 minutes at a sitting. Why 12? Ten minutes felt too short, and fifteen too long to sustain, so I settled on twelve.

I had intended to meditate daily, but life as a working parent quickly got in the way, and that plan quickly fell apart. And yet, I didn’t want to become a “3-day monk” (mikka bōzu, 三日坊主) again so I persevered and eventually settled down to a workable routine without getting too hung up if I missed a day.

It’s not an ideal practice, but rather than punishing myself for not living up to an ideal, and then immediately losing all hope, I decided to just keep at it whenever opportunity allowed. This goes against my perfectionist side, but it’s still a lot better than no zazen at all. I try not to think too much about what I am not doing, and spend more time reflecting on what I have done so far. And so far, it’s been my best meditation routine in many years.

In the same way, sustaining ango for 90 days won’t be easy. I expect to have some days better than others. Similarly to language learning, or rehearsing for a play, I expect to fail often but will also pick myself up and keep going. I am in it for the long-haul.

P.S. apologies for the atrocious title of this blog post. Dad-joke instincts are kicking in. 😋

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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