New Twists in Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training

Yes, I’ve jumped into the online world, determined to offer the best Zen training possible.

I’m not excluding in-the-flesh work at all but offering the Vine of Obstacles as part of the mix, depending on the person and their circumstances, intent on utilizing the available technology to facilitate practitioners’ practice-awakening projects through a personalized approach.

Another post-traditional aspect of this work is my teacher role. Especially in this format, I see myself more as a coach and trainer and not as a feudal-power authority on all matters … or perfect Zen Master.

So Vine of Obstacles was rolled out a few weeks ago. My aim is to work closely with a small group of students through the synergistic play of zazen, study, and engaging the world, supported by practice meetings via Skype or FaceTime and personalized study.

I’m inspired by the responses and interactions I’ve had with practitioners. The possibility for authentic work in this entanglement is palpable.

Not surprising, given the nature of the medium (and the metaphor), the Vine is twisting with some fresh tangles.

I’ve added a Moodle (“…a free, open-source PHP web application for producing modular internet-based courses that support a modern social constructionist pedagogy” – phew!) that will serve not only as the basket in which practitioners can discover themselves by interacting with modern and classical sources but also will give us the important opportunity to engage with each other as a practice group in conversation forums.

The first Vine Moodle course is complete enough, “Zazen Workshop: Getting Started Wherever You Are.” It includes general suggestions for practice (like Love and have fun. Live a creative life of wholeheartedness in work, home life, and play. Even sleep.), beginner’s-mind zazen instructions, Dogen and Keizan’s zazen advice, sections that address the subtleties of just-sitting shikantaza and koan, and a posture workshop.

Now I’m almost complete with “Guidelines for Studying the Way” and “Genjokoan: What is Realized in the Issue at Hand?” will come next. And more to come, all intent on provoking intimate self knowledge in the big open field of practicing awakening. Like I said … through the synergistic play of zazen, study, and engaging the world, supported by practice meetings via Skype or FaceTime.

For me, this is big fun.

If you’d like to be involved, contact me at for more information and an application.

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