[Easy English Blog] Zen meditation

view of building exterior

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About a year after I arrived in Japan, I started going to a temple to do Zazen, or Zen meditation. It was held at 6:00am on Sundays. At that time, I didn’t have a car, so I rode my bicycle to the temple. It took about 30 minutes. Before we started meditation, we cleaned the Zen-do hall. There were five of us – the priest, three men, and me.

We did Zazen with the doors and windows open. It was nice and cool in summer, although I panicked when a bee or large insect came in through the doors. I tried not to disturb the other people, but I’m sure they could see me panic! In winter, it was so cold that my fingers and toes turned blue!

After Zazen, we went to a different room to copy the sutras. It was my first time to use a brush and ink to write. I’m sure my writing was very bad, but the others always said it was good. They were very kind. After copying the sutras, we drank matcha and listened to a lecture by the priest. This was 17 years ago, so at that time, my Japanese was not very good. I couldn’t understand much.

When we finished, one of the men took me to a room overlooking the temple garden, and we talked about many things. I enjoyed talking to him. He spoke slowly so I could understand him. He was the president of a large company in the area.

After Zazen, I went home, got changed, and went to work. I felt peaceful throughout the day. I can’t remember why I stopped going to the temple. Maybe I needed more time to study for my Japanese tests.

Last year, I went to Zazen classes at a local Buddhist centre. Every month, we had a lecture and then Zazen practice. I was pleased because I could understand the lectures. I was also happy because the Zazen practice was in a room, with an air conditioner and a heater. (I know, I shouldn’t think like this because endurance is part of the training. I need to practice more!) 🙂

Put (something) away

Do you know the English expression “to put (something) away?” Read the conversation below. Can you guess the meaning?

Harriet: Susie, the living room is a mess! Put your toys away!

Susie: OK, mum. I’ll put them away now.

Does it mean:

a) throw  away

b) put something in a different room

c) tidy up

d) make a mess

The answer is below!↓

depth of field photography of p l a y wooden letter decors on top of beige wooden surface

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Answer: c) tidy up

Short Story – Marvellous Max

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A short story for learners of English.

Max loves action comics and movies. He works in the car park of a big supermarket. It is a not a good job, but Max was not clever at school. He doesn’t have any qualifications. He couldn’t go to university. This job was the best he could find.

Max collects the shopping carts that shoppers leave in the car park. He takes the shopping carts back to the entrance of the supermarket. It is sometimes hard work but it is not difficult. So Max has a lot of time to dream.

He dreams of being a hero. He dreams of being Superman or Batman. Of course his dreams are crazy but as Max tells himself, Dreams are free.

Today it is very wet and windy. Max is wearing a long blue raincoat. It has the name of the supermarket on the back.

Max is standing next to a row of carts. He will push them together and then he will take them all back to the supermarket door. He looks around to see if there are any more in the car park. There are special places for shoppers to leave the carts. Most people take their carts to these special places but some people are lazy, and leave them near their cars.

He sees two young boys in jackets with hoods.

They should be in school, he thinks. What are they doing here?

He sees a small woman pushing a cart towards her car. The cart is full of shopping bags. She looks old and the weather is very bad.

I’ll go and take her cart for her, he thinks.

He starts walking across the car park. The woman puts her cart behind her car. She walks to her car door to unlock it.

Suddenly the two boys run towards the cart. They take the cart and push it towards the road.

“Hey you!” shouts Max “What are you doing?”

Max chases the boys. The boys run out of the car park with the shopping cart and along the road. Max runs very fast.

“Stop! Stop!” he shouts.

The boys run to the corner. There is a car coming. They have to stop. They turn around and see Max. They see a very big man. His long coat is blowing in the wind. It looks like a cape. He looks like Batman, or Superman. They are frightened. They leave the cart and run across the road.

Max takes the cart of shopping and pushes it back to the supermarket. The little old lady is sitting on a seat outside the store. The store manager is talking to her. She is very shocked. She is crying. Max walks up to her.

“I couldn’t catch the bad boys, but here is your shopping,” he says.

“Oh, thank you!” she says.

“Well done, Max,” says the store manager.

“You are a hero,” says the lady.

Max’s face is red. “Oh, no,” he says. “I am not a hero.”

“You are a hero to me,” she says. She gives Max $20.

Max doesn’t want to take it, but she pushes it into his pocket.

“Please take it,” she says.

Max helps her put her shopping into her car. Then he takes the empty cart away.

I’ll be able to buy a new comic on the way home, he thinks.

[Easy English Blog] Sunsets

I love sunsets. I love sunrises too, but I usually miss them because I am still sleeping… (I must get up earlier!)

The area of Japan where we live has a lake. Every evening, when the weather is fine, photographers gather at the side of the lake. They all want to take pictures of the beautiful sunset over the water. When I have the chance, I go to watch the sunset too. Although I only have a small, cheap and old camera, I like to take pictures. Here are some that I took this summer. I hope you enjoy them!

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Can you see nice sunsets where you live?

Heather@I Talk You Talk Press

Pull the plug

Do you know the English expression “to pull the plug”? Read the conversation below. Can you guess the meaning?

Kate: Is the city government going to build a new swimming pool?

Steve: No, the new mayor pulled the plug on it. He said it was too expensive.

Does it mean:

a) stop or cancel something

b) pull out the plug in a pool or bath

c) promote something

d) make something cheaper

The answer is below!↓

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Answer: a) stop or cancel something

Find (one’s) feet

Do you know the English expression “to find (one’s) feet“? Read the conversation below. Can you guess the meaning?

Ira: How is your new job? Have you found your feet yet?

Gina: Yes, It’s fine now. It’s not as difficult as I expected.

Does it mean:

a) look for your feet

b) become confident in something new

c) become the best in something new

d) follow someone’s footsteps

The answer is below!↓

woman and two men sitting on chairs beside table in room

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Answer: b) become confident in something new