Eastern Thought & Lit Exercises

See the terms here!

See the some koans here!

List of Exercises


Please understand that some of these exercises may not be feasible for the school day, given the nature of your other classes. It should also be understood that the wishes of your other teachers take precedence over the demands of these exercises while you're in the class. If that precludes your participation in any of these exercises, pick other ways to get your points.

Exercises marked with an asterisk (*) can be repeated.


One school day(7:15 to 2:15)-No voluntary sounds. You may use gestures, facial expressions or you may communicate by writing. If you wish to increase the degree of difficulty, eschew those means of communication. Either way, let your teachers know beforehand what you're up to.

The report should include: occasions when you slipped and the reason, what other folks did to try and get you to talk, and, any insights you gained as a result of being quiet for the day.


If the monks can do all of their own cleaning, you can give it a try too. Assuming that your room presents an appropriate challenge, you are to perform these three steps:1)Purge your room of all materials(excepting books and shelving and materials affixed to the walls)that do not have a functional value--attempt to get your room into a 'stripped-down' condition, 2)Clean the room in its entirety, as thoroughly as can be, and 3)Upon the completion of the first two steps, submit a report which lists the items removed and details the effort required to clean. 4) Maintain the cleanliness and order for one calendar week.

The report should include a listing of the items removed from the room, a description of the effort made in the initial cleaning, and the effort it required to keep the room in its spiffy new condition.

The Rude Awakening

Check out "My Heart Burns Like Fire" in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. It's time to cast off your bed like an old pair of shoes. No dawdling in bed, no snooze alarm, no waiting for someone to rouse you. As soon as your alarm sounds and you realize that you're awake, leap out of bed and get to your business. Five consecutive school days.

Report on what your normal procedure has been for waking up and getting to school in the morning, how this exercise went on a day-by-day basis, and how the change affected your state of consciousness throughout the day.

Going Slow

The Slow Walking assignment requires that you cut your walking pace between classes by at least 50% for three consecutive school days. This does not grant you permission to arrive late. Don't try this unless the distances are practical.

Report on observations made during the three days concerning the affect on your own consciousness and the reactions of other people to your pace.


Please note that this assignment is not an assignment about fasting but rather it is about modifying your diet from its present state. If you're a meat eater, try a vegetarian diet. If you're a vegetarian, try vegan. If you're a vegan, try a carnivorous diet. I'm not trying to push you one way or the other. This exercise is about discipline and remembering.

Keep a list of what you do eat for the two weeks this exercise requires. When finished, add a report of how the change affected you.


The sun comes up; you've got one hour to get outside. Stay there until the sun goes down. No cars, no buildings. A canopy or an awning, fine. Pack some sandwiches. Report what happens. Pretty simple, eh?


No, not that kind silly, although this is an exercise to be engaged in by those who don't mind having an inordinate amount of attention paid to them. For one school day, dress against your normal type outside of your normal range of clothing. If you're doing it right, you should feel somewhat uncomfortable (although a conscious attempt to ridicule other types of people is not welcome). Then watch the fun as everyone says,"What...?" For maximum effect, don't tell them you're doing it for a class.

Report on why you chose that particular fashion, how people react and anything you learn about judgment and surface characteristics.


Another very simple concept. Pick any habit. Swearing, smoking, pop consumption, sweets, verbal fillers etc. Describe the extent of the habit when you fill out your contract. Negotiate a program of elimination or reduction for a period of time, usually one or two weeks. Report on how it went.


There is a separate contract for these exercises.

Numens/Numinous Objects

No contract, no write-up.This requires that you carry a small, natural object on your person for about two months. No purses, no backpacks, no wallets etc. It's got to be on your person. Coat pockets are acceptable. You will be monitored. You get one strike but on the second, you're out. If, however, you catch me without mine, you get an extra strike. You'll have to think of an interesting question though if you'd like to see my numen. "Do you have your numen?" and questions of that like, do not qualify as interesting.


If you're taking Photo class, or, if you're an amateur photographer, I can design some photo exercises for you. You'll have to foot the bill for any costs though.

Temple/Church/Synagogue Visits

Attend the services of any faith you wish as long as it's not the faith in which you were raised or are currently practicing. You will be expected to report your experience orally to the class. There is a Tibetan Buddhist temple and a Zen Buddhist temple in Ann Arbor to which I can direct you.

Feel free to think up other exercises but be sure, whether it's one of my exercises or yours, to notify me BEFOREHAND as to what you're doing.

Exercise Contract

Original list of exercises

Tao Te Ching

101 Zen Stones from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

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