2nd week of term - October 16, 2006
On Wednesday, we had a prisoner from Oregon State Penitentiary get out after 22 years in prison. Friends drove him up here to take the precepts from the teacher he worked with in prison -- one of our priests who makes that her work. I was the chant leader for the precepts ceremony, and was very impressed with the fact that this was the first thing he chose to do upon his release. He will actually live in Eugene, because there's a good transition program there and not much here in Portland for him. Maybe he will eventually work his way up here to be part of our Sangha, which would be pretty cool. He has a friend in our sangha who has also been working with him for several years in order to provide some supportive contact on the outside.
Thursday I got a visit from an e-mail pal, a Soto Zen priest from Ohio. She was in town for a conference to take minutes, and had a free afternoon, so I picked her up at her hotel and brought her here for a tour of our facilities and some "shop talk." It was great fun. She was very impressed by our temple and the house, and a little envious -- well, it's a difference between a temple that has been established for 25 years and her center which is just starting out, I gather. There were enough people around here to take up the slack for me taking off for an afternoon to spend time with her, and that was really nice.
That evening there was a lay teacher transmission ceremony that I was not involved with -- in fact, it was supposed to be a secret. Those who live here, however, and many others, all knew about it. I went across the street to ZCO's program, which was nice as always. When I came back and went to bed, there was a lot of thumping and bumping from the house's zendo right above my room, but I couldn't really hear voices, and only a hint of a gong now and then. I wasn't sure whether I could fall asleep or not, but after awhile I woke up to silence and darkness and figured I must have done so.
I don't remember that much about Friday, other than the fact that we did our first Friday evening sitting meditation for the term. I was tired, and struggled to stay awake most of the evening (I was timekeeping, so it's important to stay awake enough to ring the bells now and then).
Saturday after morning sitting and service we did Dharani chanting practice, which was fun. We're getting ready to chant these at our Segaki celebration on Sunday the 29th, something we do once a year. The dharanis are a bit of a challenge to get right, and so last year we practiced quite a bit ahead of time, and had only those people who have practiced do the chanting at the service. Those of us who learned it last year picked it up very quickly again this year, so new people joining us are getting it more easily. Plus we recorded it last year, so people can actually play the recording at home as they need to. The dharanies are transliterations of chants that were originally done in some language that no longer exists -- they are really ancient chants. There's some sense of what they are saying, but no actual translation. They've been transliterated through several languages at this point, so it's doubtful that the original speakers would even recognize them. But there is presumed to be some sort of energy in the sound of the chants themselves. These particular ones are inviting the hungry ghosts in for a day and at the same time invoking protection from the buddhas against their destructive powers. It's kind of like saying come in, but you have to obey some house rules. I always like Segaki, and am beginning to look forward to it. It's one of our four annual retreats, and even though it's only a weekend long, it tends to be fairly intense and sets us up on the road to Rohatsu (the week-long retreat in early December), which is almost always the most deeply experienced retreat of the year.
Saturday evening was the long-awaited talent show. I had managed to stay happily out of it until Domyo grabbed me a week before and told me it would be easy to join her little group. And it was. She had it entirely scripted, and we did it kind of reader theater style, so no having to improv or memorize lines. That left room for all of us to ham it up, which we did. We read through it once on Saturday morning briefly, and found that it didn't require a lot of work -- no choreography or anything. It was one of Domyo's great spoofs on Buddhist texts that she does so well. The picture shows Domyo (in pink sweater) and me (sitting at table). The fellow playing Shantideva was on the other side of the stage.
We weren't the only group doing spoofs on Buddhist stuff -- the Tiny Mind Theater did a takeoff on Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins stalking the wild Zen Buddhists, complete with tagging someone and capturing one of the young (who fought like a wildcat until he was tamed with a cookie). We also had bellydancing, beatboxing, juggling, baton twirling, poetry reading, singing, and a bunch of stuff. The whole thing was pretty fun. I took photos, as did my teacher, and I'll try to get some of the pix up on our website. We had disco dancing afterwards, which led nicely into cleanup, and many people pitched in to cleanup so it was largely done by 10:30pm, not too bad.
Every morning this week (that is, Wednesday through Sunday), I've gotten up at 5am, and have made breakfast for everyone. I've put together lunches most days as well. Saturday night I also made dinner, because no one else was available to do it. Fortunately, there were only 4 of us, and I basically heated up leftovers and threw together a salad from greens brought down from the monastery on Thursday.
Sunday (yesterday) I was pretty tired, and by the end of our morning services and such was ready for a nap. But I never got a nap. I got keys for new house residents and did a tour, and then scrounged lunch (more yummy leftovers), and somehow got a second wind, taking care of this and that, running back and forth between the House and the Zendo. I wasn't at all sure I'd be able to stay awake for meditation with ZCO in the evening, but after struggling with sleepiness for the first period, I somehow settled into a very nice samadhi state -- something that is not all that common for me. It was quite refreshing.
Today has been more work than resting. I've had more energy than I would have expected after that busy week. My own personal projects haven't gotten much done -- no sewing, for example, which I was hoping to do. There's been a lot of work to do in the kitchen (cleaning and putting things away), and I've been working on temple laundry. One of my roommates left her alarm on unintentionally, and it went off at 5:45, so I had to get up to figure out how to turn it off. Tomorrow I may be able to sleep a little later. Still, after getting up at 5am all week, sleeping until 5:45 wasn't too bad.
My teacher Kyogen left today to go back to California to be with his father, who is still sorting out treatment options for a cancer diagnosis. The combination of that diagnosis plus his wife's death a couple of months ago has left him pretty shaky (oh, and he's 91 years old on top of all that), and he needs a lot of support. We were all sad to see Kyogen go, but also realize why he has to be there. So we will cope as best we can.
I suppose I could do some sort of summary of my first year as a postulant, but I'm not sure what I would say about it all. Let's see, I think one big change is that I'm less afraid of fear. Fear still comes up, but it doesn't freak me out as much as it used to. I've learned a lot about myself, and am feeling more comfortable being who I am rather than trying to please others all the time. I've gotten better at basic meditation. I still love being here doing what I'm doing, and still feel that this is my life's work. I expect that this year may be just as hard as last year was, but it doesn't worry me. Last year at this time I was terrified and not even sure what I was afraid of exactly. Now I have a sense that there is still fear to be faced and more to learn about myself, but it doesn't terrify me -- it's just there, just something to work with, and I have more confidence that I *can* work with it, and more trust that I will have the support here that I need. I still feel a lot of gratitude that I can be here full-time as I am.
I expect I will be ordained some time in the next couple of months, but it's all up in the air as my teacher has his family obligations to take care of, and they are not predictable. So I will simply continue my work, and it's all good.