Monday, October 02, 2006

Term Opening

Wow, here it is October already. Happy Birthday, brother Dave! Sorry I completely forgot about that one. It's officially fall, but I did have to go out to water this morning. We had some good rain about a week and a half ago, but it's been dry since then. It's not as hot as it was, so I don't have to water every three days, but have spaced it out to about five days. We still have tomatoes ripening (though not so fast) in the garden, and nice-looking collard greens. Still some sunflowers, though the stems and leaves are beginning to turn brown. And still some roses coming -- I think going out and deadheading a few weeks ago has stimulated some new growth. It looks like it will be a lovely day today, though not hot at all -- I think the forecast is in the low-to-mid-60s.

I got up early to take my teacher to the airport this morning. As we were driving along the freeway about 6am, I remarked that it was a lot of traffic for a Saturday morning. He said, it's Monday morning. Well, that's true -- our days off here are Mondays, and I've gotten to thinking of them as Saturdays. The traffic did make sense for 6am on Monday morning. Not bad yet, but definitely there.

Anyway, he's off to the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) National Conference in New York for a week. His wife (Gyokuko, the other teacher here) is still in southern California with his father, who is not doing all that well. Having lost his wife a few months back, he has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, and is having a hard time coping with all the medical ins and outs on top of the emotional hit. He's almost 91, and kind of in a difficult state. Gyokuko was scheduled to go to SZBA and facilitate a discussion, but now won't attend. She's taking charge of steering him through the medical process -- getting tests, diagnosis, treatment options and getting all that set up. The two teachers will switch places in California after the Conference, and so she will be here while he goes back down south. Hopefully they will have at least a few days together first. A crazy year for them (and, to a lesser extent, for us). The teachers are trying to empower the lay teachers in the sangha and other senior members to take over some things, and I think that is working. They've been moving in that direction for a while, but this situation kind of accelerates that process a bit.

We had term opening this weekend. For me, that meant Term Student retreat on Saturday most of the day, and Term Opening service yesterday morning instead of our usual service. At the Term Student opening retreat we share our stories with each other, kind of talk about our spiritual history and what led us here. People do all sorts of different things with that assignment, and it's always interesting. I talked about how this last year has gone and what I've learned from it. Then we shared our term vows with each other. Part of Term Opening service is that we all go around and share our vows with each other. There were probably about 50 people attending, so it needed to be brief, and not everyone shared something (some people were visiting, and some just don't want to participate in this, which is okay), but most people did.

The idea is to state an intention in some area of your practice that you wish to pay attention to for the next 4 months, the length of our term. A very common one is to increase the time of doing sitting meditation, and we encourage something very specific -- i.e., I will sit at least 4 mornings a week, and aim for 6 mornings a week. Some people go for a principle -- staying present, working on a particular precept or part of the Eightfold Noble Path or just even something like cultivating compassion for all beings, especially those who bug me. My vow is to be here, to work with acceptance, trust, compassion and gratitude, and to take care of this place as I take care of my life.

This morning, after getting up early to take my teacher to the airport, I found that there were more dishes to do -- several still left over from Dharma School yesterday. So I did those up. I've worked some on laundry, but there's still more to do. Last night we had the two teachers from Great Vow Zen Monastery stay overnight, because one of them also left very early this morning to go to the airport to attend the SZBA Conference. So I made up beds for them in the sitting room (we have sleeping pads for that purpose, and bedding as well), and now those sheets need to be washed and the rest of the bedding put away. Then there's the living room that needs vacuuming. And never forget the cat, who is getting old and frail, who needs feeding and loving at regular intervals. In the absence of her "parents," who are now both gone again, the responsibility falls again on me. After breakfast, I took a nap (with the cat also taking a nap on my tummy).

Today I want to spend some time on sewing projects. I inventoried my fabric last week, and discovered that I had stuff for about 8-10 projects, and so I prioritized those. However, I didn't include a project that I was trying to get done for yesterday (curtains). I figured those would be easy to stitch up and put up, but that proved not to be true. I ran into various problems. First, the fabric wasn't nearly as opaque as I had thought, so then it needed to be lined. As it happened, I had some cotton muslin in my box of fabric that is actually intended for lining things like that, and I had enough to line the curtains. But it added a layer of complexity and more work that I hadn't anticipated. I was still hoping to get them done for yesterday morning, but it didn't happen. I ran out of steam on Saturday night, so the curtains are still sitting in the sewing room across the street waiting to get finished.

Then, I realized I had enough of a particular kind of black fabric that I could make one or maybe two lay meditation robes. A friend really wants a new robe, so I offered to make one for her. She was delighted, and even offered to pay me for it (which I will gladly accept). So now that's another project I need to get going. I have taken measurements and calculated how to cut it out, and hope to get it cut out today at least. Then I need to make another robe to have on hand for guests. We discourage things like shorts or loud prints in the Zendo, so sometimes encourage guests to wear a robe if they aren't dressed quite right. It's nice to have one or two on hand for that purpose. Several of us wear robes routinely, so no one stands out when they are wearing a robe; in fact, they blend in better.

One thing about the white cotton muslin -- I got it for the purpose of making a kimono (underrobe) and also some summer-weight juban (kind of like undershirts, but Japanese style, and more or less required for us to wear under robes and jackets). I made up one juban, and it is great when the weather is hot, and I will need one or two more for next year, and a super-lightweight kimono will be great for next summer. Not a priority right now (I'm thinking more of a flannel juban for fall/winter first). But at some point, I will want to replace that cotton muslin, I suspect.

I talked with my teacher about an ordination date. He's up for it, but it's hard to schedule around the uncertainties with his father's situation. So we're looking at late November or sometime in December. We have a major retreat the first week of December, and it would be good to have it done before that, but he pointed out that it might be easier to schedule afterwards. So, possibly mid-December. We'll see how it goes. In some ways, I'm not in a particular hurry, and it doesn't really matter a lot. The primary change it will make in my life is that I will no longer pay room and board, and my head will be completely shaved bald, and I will wear different robes some of the time. The work I'm doing will be pretty much the same, with a gradual addition of a little more responsibility and leadership, primarily in the areas of workshop leading and outside speaking. That's already happening, which is fine. I think the other thing is that I will no longer have to ask permission every time I leave the campus, though of course I will let people know where I'm going, etc. And my days off I think will be more my own in terms of where I go and what I do. I don't anticipate going wild about it, because I really love being here. My days off are a lot like today -- some resting, laundry, catching up on cleaning, etc. Not that different from how my Saturdays used to be.

On Tuesday (tomorrow!) we will be full-tilt-boogie into our regular term schedule. That means a full evening on Tuesday. This week there is seminary class (which I still have reading to do for). Every other week there is sitting meditation and then class, and on the off weeks, it is just sitting meditation and Vespers (which I usually time-keep and lead singing for). Then Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings we sit over here at the House at 6:30-8am (which I will also time-keep and lead chanting for) and then have formal breakfast (which I will cook for). Saturday and Sunday mornings we have formal breakfast (ditto cooking) at 7am and then sitting and service from 8:30 to 10 (which I may or may not time-keep and chant-lead for, depending on who else is there). In addition, there is the usual Wednesday evening schedule from 7-9 and Friday evening sitting meditation from 7-9. You can usually see what I am doing by looking at our calendar, which is on the website at under the Events page.

This week I will also be doing some more work on the Nov/Dec calendar, I imagine, trying to get it finalized for the newsletter. I'm not sure how or when the newsletter will get to the printer this time. It will have to wait for one of the teachers to return, I think. We have typically gotten it done at CostCo, but I'm not a member there, so I'm not even supposed to go into the store -- last time I got hasseled for going in to pick up the newsletter when it was done, even though the printing department is right inside the front door. We do have a resident here who is a CostCo member, and she may be able to take it in. We'll see how it goes.

Getting the calendar on the web will be different, since I'm using the new software for it. I'd like to see if I can get it up in html format, so I can add links to the calendar items. I've been just putting it up as a graphic, and can still do that if that's all I can do. Still a bit of research to do on that one. But not today.

This is long enough, for sure. I recently got an update from a friend who has moved to China for a year, and found it interesting. He's been added to the list of folks who get these updates. I'm always interested in hearing from you about what you're up to these days, but whether I hear from you or not, I wish you well.


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