Saturday, July 29, 2006

First Pic

Okay, here's my first attempt to put a photo up on here. I took it of myself with the time delay on my camera when I was up on Mt Hood earlier this month. It's a bit small, and maybe at some point I'll get a better photo of myself for the profile section. But at least it's here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tomorrow is my 57th birthday. I'm not doing anything special. Actually, I'm going to a memorial service for a cancer buddy. I found out from my friend Sue that Carolann had died on Sunday, and will go to her service tomorrow. I knew Carolann when I was in the support group, and she was always so positive and upbeat, a great creative talent. She was another one who outlived original predictions, including a miracle treatment that gave her more useful years. Her son just graduated from high school, and evidently has a lot of his mother's artistic talent. I will go pay my respects and see if anyone else from the old group is there.

The heat wave is finally over, thank goodness. It was really hot over the weekend and Monday. It's unusual to get 4 days in a row of 100+ temps here, including one day that was also very humid. And it didn't cool down much at night like it usually does. So we all just sweltered. My room is reasonably cool, being in the basement, so I could at least sleep at night. Of course, we never got it as bad as they have it in California and other places. My teacher is in California with his dad, as his stepmother is dying, and he is dealing with a lot of heat. But yesterday and today it's been fairly cool in the mornings here, warm in the afternoons, but pleasant evenings and overnight. I like this much better. I've been watering certain areas every other morning, and have recently added another area when MrK (who is now working full-time as an arborist) pointed out that the trees on the parking strip in front aren't getting enough water. So this morning I think I was watering for about an hour and a half. I only water the areas where the sprinkler system doesn't cover, but it's still pretty substantial.

Then I spent a while weeding and picking lettuce (of which we now have an abundance), and then another while washing and spin-drying the lettuce and putting it in a plastic bag. There's always more to do in the garden, in the kitchen, and such, but it felt satisfying to do this much. Right now I'm finishing the audio recording of last Sunday's dharma talk. Yesterday I finished the first draft of our Sept/Oct calendars for the upcoming newsletter production. Always things to do.

Friday evening I will go out to the monastery to participate in the 24-hr Chant for Peace. They have different groups come in to lead chants for an hour, and I will lead one from midnight to 1am. Will there be people chanting then? Of course! Last year I chanted nonstop from 7pm (when it starts) to almost midnight, and there were several of us then. I was surprised at how much energy it generated. I tried to lie down and sleep and was unable to. I especially enjoyed the Koreans, who chanted from 3-5am, but I expect I will miss them this year, because I need to get back here to get a little sleep. I have another resident riding with me, which will help especially on the way back to keep me awake.

Saturday is our Sangha Picnic in the afternoon. It will be different with my teacher out of town, but MrK has offered to take over the grill, so we will still have good stuff to eat. I'm going to make a huge potato salad on Friday, take some on the road to eat for supper that night on the way to the monastery, and the rest for the picnic. Should still be fun.

Summary so far

About my past I will perhaps say little at this point. Last year (June 2005) I graduated with a masters in Adult Education from Oregon State University, quit my job (10 years with Head Start as an adult educator -- that's one of my many previous lives), and moved in to the Dharma House residence of Dharma Rain Zen Center (take a look at the website -- I didn't design it, but I do maintain it).

In October I officially became a postulant, which means that I've been trying on the role of monk. I didn't shave my head, though my hair has been buzzed short for quite a while now, but I did start dressing the way monks dress and taking direction from others at the Center. As postulant, I have been junior to everyone, and in training for a variety of new tasks. I haven't had any responsibility or authority, and have in fact been told more than once to be careful not to direct anything. That's a very large change from the managerial position I held in my previous job. Being a postulant involves making lots of mistakes and learning not to be perfect, to forgive myself, and other things like that.

I have no ordination date set, but I suspect it will be some time this fall. I have been sewing my monk robes (kimono, koromo, okesa, and zagu), and they are very close to being finished. In the mean time, it's summer, we're on summer schedule, which means that there's very little actually on the schedule. So I'm on my own much of the time. We have few people around during the day, but I still get up relatively early, water the gardens every other day, take a walk most days, sit meditation for an hour almost every day, eat breakfast, and start on whatever tasks are set before me. I've always been good at seeing these, so I'm never really bored or at a loss for what to do.

The other thing summer means is that I've been told I have to get out of the house and take vacations. As a postulant, I've had to ask permission to leave the campus (which consists of the House, the Zendo [temple building], and the Sangha House [another residence up the street]). I've been contented to stay here most of the time, with only a few forays out into the world. I've never been refused permission to leave, but I still rarely ask. Now I'm being told to get out of the house, so I'm scheduling trips and visits with friends.

Part of the purpose of the postulancy year is to determine whether this is really the right path for me, whether I still believe at the end of this time that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. From the time I finally gave in to whatever pull this is and agreed to go forward with it, things have fallen into place and I can see how right they are. This is all still true, and I can say that I am more contented with my life right now than I have ever been. It has not been a particularly tranquil year, definitely not an easy year (though the first few months were easy, and I thought I would skate through this whole thing -- wrong!), but it has been full and satisfying, and it is clear to me that this is where I belong.

When I'm ordained, I will be considered a novice monk, or sometimes we call it a junior monk. I will take 5-year vows to serve this temple and continue with training and take instruction from my teachers. I suspect I will continue to get training in priestcraft (ceremonial duties, things like interviews, workshop teaching, etc.) as well as continuing to explore my own karma and how to work with it in the context of Zen Buddhism. There are times when I feel like I know quite a bit, and other times when I feel like a complete babe starting out, knowing almost nothing. Maybe that's just the human condition.