Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Eat, Sit, March




I found a chaplaincy program at Upaya Zen Center. You don’t have to be a priest to participate. It’s a two year certificate program that may substitute for a master’s degree. I’m giving it Chaplain Candidate School serious thought.

As I write this, I’m looking at 4 new books I just ordered on pedagogy. I also taught a wonderful class to upward bound high school students on Saturday, which was refreshing and inspiring. And then, I’m studying for the GRE, with hopes of pursuing an MFA in creative writing. It's all going well. It's good to fly kites on breezey days.


Making decisions from a good place is a new thing for me. It's a new exercise. It's actually a challenge! It's much easier to react to a perceived disaster, to "save" myself and thrive on resentment. It's harder to love your job, you life, but also plan for the future, while not making any big changes to quickly. And I'm thinking about a big commitment.


If I decide to become a chaplain, it will take about 6 years of training, graduate school, and professional experience. I don't think this contradicts living in the moment. One needs to go to work, fulfill responsibilities, and one needs to plan, also. It's a necessary part of our life.


Zen teachers don't just show up to the airport and get on a plane the day of a scheduled dharma talk. They have to plan, too.


After zazen, I broke out Deshimaru’s The Way of True Zen. I treat this text like a bible. Not that I swear on it or anything, but it’s the Zen book I read over and over again, primarily because it teaches me the language my teacher uses. If you walk into a mundo with my teacher and ask about karma, he’ll not have much to say, and it may piss him off. But if you ask about Mu, Ku, Hishryo consciousness, or Mujo, it will provide a more teachable moment for everyone involved. And in reading Deshimaru, it’s hard to get away from his samurai-like upbringing, or even his own service in the Japanese army, and his teacher’s service. Robert also served in the Korean war.

And then there’s me, the son of a career Marine. There’s a lot about me that would strike some as militaristic. I don’t like a lot of junk on my bathroom sink and I make my bed as soon as I wake up. I slip and call the floor the deck pretty often, as it was always named in my childhood.

So I looked it up. Why not bring practice to the 3,500 hundred enlisted men and women? It’s not that I think I could be their teacher, but I can sew a zafu and ring a gong and sit up straight. I can maintain a zendo, recommend some books, and reference some teachers who can give precepts. I can also listen and give practical advice, and after the required training, provide council. All of this seems to fit. I think this would be good practice for a Bodhisattva. A lot of zen practitioners become yoga teachers, councilors, and teachers. And for the amount of suffering our enlisted and commissioned endure, there isn't a lot exposure to the buddha-dharma.

I know these are just ideas. I didn’t always know what an idea was though. I once listened to my teacher yelling, “Ideas, ideas! Don’t you know what an idea is?”

There was a time when I mistook an idea for certain reality. For example, I’d feel the urge to quit my job, or not show up, because I figured that was normal for metamorphosis. I’d start thinking terms of already being the idea, instead of experiencing the idea. Am I alone on this?

Not surprisingly, as I drank coffee after ceremony, I was moved to take the day off, and bask in the future. Read some, study some, and probably search the web for any shred of encouragement for my new idea. I didn’t encourage it for two long. Maybe I heard two or three requests from the brain. I didn’t entertain them, and I was only 5 minutes late for work. Not too shabby.

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