Monday, September 25, 2006

Meditation workshop

I just got back from going out to do a meditation workshop at a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility. This is not something we typically do, but the director of the program, who is new, was interested in the fact that two of the patients there include meditation as part of their recovery. She called and talked with me, and I figured, sure, I could even do this myself, if no one else wanted to go along.

As it happened, we had one of our regularly-scheduled meditation workshops here on Saturday, and the guy leading it (who is in charge of doing workshops) wasn't able to find an assistant. So he made a deal with me that he would go along with me tonight if I would assist him on Saturday. Of course I was happy to do so.

There were three people attending the workshop this evening -- the director, two patients, and of course Dosho and I. We typically do these workshops in two hours, but the director had specified one hour, because she felt that the folks wouldn't be able to sit and focus for longer than that. So we abbreviated our usual format a bit, but included the basics. In fact, I've done a basic introduction to meditation in 10 minutes for new people coming in the door so they can go and sit right away. So an hour wasn't too bad.

We spent the first 35 minutes talking -- checking in with them and who they were and what their background was, then talking about meditation, which included me demonstrating the various postures. We had brought along 4 mats and 6 cushions and one bench, and one person definitely wanted to sit on a chair rather than on the floor, so we had enough for everyone else to try out sitting on the floor. So finally, we had everyone sit and try out meditation for 7 minutes (in our usual workshops we sit for 20 minutes).

The room was noisy -- air conditioning and a pop machine, a little small, and cool because of the AC. That probably didn't help with trying to focus on listening and talking. But everyone conscientiously sat still for the 7 minutes in whatever posture they were able to find. Then we turned around to face each other and checked in with how that was. Oh, all three of them were really excited. This was wonderful, they all said, in different ways. The change in the two patients, especially, was quite remarkable. After doing it, they understood more of what we had been talking about, and they talked about their experiences with that 7 minutes in quite a nice way. Definitely a successful experiment for them.

So we then talked about practicing meditation regularly and some ways to do that and how it's important to do it whether you feel like it or not. It didn't feel like they were at the end of their patience at all -- in fact, they thanked us over and over and it seemed like they would have been happy to continue talking about the experience for a while longer, but we really try to keep to our schedule, and anyway Dosho wanted to get home, and he has a bit of a drive from here.
So I found it actually kind of fun. And, as Dosho says, you never know what will happen with this kind of thing. He told me about an experience way back when he first discovered meditation, where he learned it out of a book and started practicing it on his own. A friend of his expressed interest, and so Dosho taught him what he knew. Then he lost track of the guy. 20 years later a mutual friend told Dosho that this guy had talked about being taught meditation 20 years ago, and how he had continued meditating regularly as a result of that for 20 years.

If nothing else, I felt like we provided a nice break for three people (actually, for 5 of us, if it comes down to that -- Dosho and I also enjoyed that 7 minutes). And you never know, it may end up giving them some new tools for working with their lives. Either way, it was fun to share something that I know works with others who were able to receive it.

This last week has been busy. We're starting to gear up for getting back to our regular schedule. The phone is ringing more. We're trying to get things shipshape. Back into some sort of routine. And it's newsletter time, so I've been working on the calendar. We bought some new updated software, and I've been learning it by recreating the calendar with it. That took me much of last week, but it's done (that is, the first draft), and I'm pretty pleased with the new software. I think it will be a lot easier to use than the old package we were using, and will do everything we need it to do and more. So, that was fun, if also a fair bit of work.

The other thing I've been doing is becoming the lunch cook. I already do breakfasts pretty regularly. But with the reduced staff we have, the senior monk (Domyo) is pretty much doing most of the dinners, and she's asked me to do lunches. Well, okay. Often there are only three of us at lunch. But it still involves making sure we have something set out to eat at noon, and it has to include some protein, and it can't include dairy, because Kyogen can't have dairy. But at least it *can* include onions and garlic if we wish, because Gyokuko is out of town. So I'm trying a bit of this and a bit of that, sometimes doing my own old standbys and sometimes doing leftovers and sometimes actually trying a new recipe out of a book. Today (and last Monday), I actually also cooked brunch. We have a tradition of doing an eggy brunch on Mondays, which is day off, when everyone can check in with each other. So last Monday it was only Kyogen and me, and today it was the two of us plus Gyokuko's father, who has been joining us for brunches most weeks since last summer. Today I did pancakes, fried eggs, and vegetarian sausage. It was all quite good. Mind you, when Gyokuko cooks, or MrK, there is often a wonderful coffeecake or other scrumptious pastry (cinnamon rolls -- yum!). Not to mention often some sort of fancy addition to the eggs -- florentine, or omelets, or various such like things. But Kyogen said keep it simple, and that I was able to do.

I'm also getting back into sewing, after having taken a bit of a break for a while. This morning I went across the street to inventory what fabric I have and to prioritize the projects I have fabric for and want to do. My goodness! I have fabric for 4 jackets and 3 pairs of pants, not to mention 2 kimonos and 2 or 3 juban. All of which I want to make, of course, but it will take a bit of time, and then I will have quite the wardrobe. At least I prioritized where I want to start. Part of why I needed to do an inventory was that my former roommate left me some black fabric when she left, and I needed to see what all was there. Oh, I also discovered enough fabric to make at least one, maybe two meditation robes, which I will do for others -- mine is still okay, though in need of some repairs. I want to make it last as long as possible, and there's this tradition of a "patch-robed monk" that kind of appeals to me.

I've started sewing again on my okesa, which is the primary thing that will mark me as a monk when I'm ordained. I've been kind of holding off, hoping that I can have sangha members do some of the stitching, which is traditional, but it feels weird to ask people to do that until I have a date. I'm starting to want to get it finished, though, so I'm just going ahead with it on my own. I want to have everything done whenever a date gets set. What's holding things up is the uncertainty with my teacher and his father's health. He's planning to go back down to California in a few weeks, and I'm reasonably certain it won't happen before then. No idea when he will return. Everything is still up in the air.

I did get added to the temple health insurance, which is good, because my other insurance under COBRA will end as of October 1. So that's good.

All in all, moving forward nicely, I think. I'm looking forward to getting back into regularly-scheduled sitting practice.


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