Skip to main content

The Mississippi Triangle

It was long drive to Starksville on Friday night. I picked up my buddy from the temple and we flew over the causeway, into the forests, and conversation ensued.

A lot has transpired at the temple and I'm not sorry to have missed it. Sounds like the good old royal rumble is still going on. My friend is the new "first assistant" which is a vague term and it probably means he's responsible for everything and nothing. It will no doubt piss off the current first assistant, who acted as shusso when I was living there. Of course, being pissed off in a Zen temple looks a little different than it does in the streets of New Orleans, but it's still disruptive. When someone hits the han like they're cracking home runs or rattles the gong like some low-fi tape deck, you know a Zennie is pissed off.

I only know from first hand experience what it's like to have a cursing match with the shusso at 5 am about the air conditioner.

But sounds like it's still going on over there, despite our teacher's recent involvement. He moved in around July. I shouldn't say despite- he quite likes the rude stuff. Or doesn't dislike it.

I'm not sure how I feel or where my place is in judging the royal rumble. Or how close I can stand to it without going off the top rope.

But we were on our way to our teacher's one and only dharma heir, Tony. Five hour drive up north to a quiet neighborhood that I always experience as dense with growth-grass, ivy, pecan trees. And it's always very damp and cool. It wasn't different, and after getting lost, we arrived at 12am, wandered into the zendo, found our mats, and fell asleep. Not so comfortable. Mosquitoes, that damp carpet. Weird dreams. Early wake up bell, like I never fell asleep.

Intense rain pounded the roof, thunder and lighting rattling windows, and so samu was canceled. Tony added two more periods of zazen, for a total of 9 sitting periods before 5pm. He gave a short kusen (dharma talk during zazen) to announce what sesshin is about, and how sesshin is supported by interdependence. He also announced there would be no more kusen and no teisho- just zazen.

It had been a couple months since I last practiced formally. I hadn't chanted in about a month. I was frustrated with myself and determined to just sit- just let the temple go, just the let the idea of becoming a priest go, and think about (or not think about) what was important, which was practice. Sincere practice. And this small 5 person day of zen, in a residential neighborhood, was perfect. The rain was perfect. I sat and struggled. I didn't know what sincere was going to be, but I decided it was going to be still, that I wouldn't (as I have in other sesshins) let my little feet sneak around under my robe, sometimes letting my ankles fall from lotus to Burmese style. I wasn't going to "relax." Sincere was going to be simple. Stretch the backbone, knees press the earth, head presses the sky. Don't talk back to the mind as it rambles on. Just sit there as I sit there when someone is gossiping- let it run itself out.

Well, I did move on the 7th and 8th period of zazen. Let the feet slip. Loosened up. Never helps, that pain just relocates. On the 9th and last, I got through it. I heard the bell once, then heard the bell twice, and it could have been a minute or it could have been an hour. It didn't matter, because at this point in my practice, I know it's forever. I can't quit sitting, so it doesn't really matter.

Not sitting is as hard as sitting.

Comments

  1. A lovely description of sitting on retreat. Right now I am home, not at the retreat we went to every year for what? ten years. I am very aware of that going on without me. Sunday night at 915, I'd be just back in my chilly little room, getting ready for bed. This is the second year I haven't felt able to go. It's too hard on me. I am telling myself that if I need a teacher and a sangha, they will emerge. Meanwhile, like you, I am stuck with Zen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where do you like to practice? I really like Green Gulch Zen Farm. In fact, I plan to spend much of my summer there.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How To Become A Zen Monk (or die trying)

"Now, if you have decided to become a monk because you think that life in this world is too hard and bitter for you and you would prefer to rather live off other people's donations while drinking your tea - if you want to become a monk just to make a living, then the following is not for you." -Kosho Uchiyama
So you want to be a Zen monk or priest? Unsui, which means clouds and water? Good on ya. Me too. 
Having googled that very aspiration for the first time in 2003, I was convinced it was impossible. I'll admit I am as thick headed as they come. I was also resistant to meet some figure in a robe. I heard my father's voice when I begged him to get my fortune read in Jackson Square, New Orleans, "I'm not paying some fat asshole in a bathrobe to tell you lies." Instead, for the first four years of my Zen practice, I committed as little as possible to my local sangha, left when they started chanting, and never talked to the teacher. I was so unapproacha…

Boredom and Buddhism

To say I feel bored feels disrespectful. How could that be? I have a three month old daughter, I'm training for a demanding job in the temple, I'm a wilderness medic responding to incidents every 4 days or so, and I'm sewing my priest robes for ordination. And I have this sense of disinterest.

I have a few theories as to why I feel bored. One could be the natural come down from having the baby and becoming stable in our schedule. Another come down plays out in the adrenaline crash after responding to a medical emergency or the general up keep work I do at the temple when compared to fixing something crucial to operations. When I hear there's a fire in the area I'm pretty excited to be mobilized for stay and defend duty. I feel pretty guilty about that, too.

So I read Beyond Boredom and Depression by Ajahn Jagaro and I was reminded to be careful about looking outward by this passage:

So what is boredom? It is a subjective experience that occurs when the mind is not i…

Vows and Compass

Being in new Orleans reminds me that my way seeking mind ripened here. Maybe it was the level of maturity my father's recovery actualized. Maybe it was the Ben Wren book I found at Beaucoup Books on my lunch break. Maybe it was my step mom's copy of things fall apart by Pema Chodron sitting in the bathroom.

Later I would witness the host of suffering post-katrina offered to a young public school teacher. How could I help? I took my first set of vows not really knowing where they would lead, like the old black metal compass my dad put in my Christmas stocking when I was about ten. Beautiful to hold, difficult to understand.

Now, years later, I feel a bit subdued as form,sensation, perception, impulse, and thought tag everything, beckoning some purchase for the price of belief. I'm home, but a home leaver. People wonder when I'll move back and being a home leaver means being ready to leave home again and again, which could mean coming back.

How will I actually engage all…