Monday, February 12, 2007

Getting caught up...

... with the blog, that is. I haven't managed a coherent update for a few weeks, I think. Since ordination, the pace of my life has stepped up significantly.

First I moved, and am now pretty much settled. Other than moving all my stuff, which took a while, the move has made little difference in my daily routine. I still spend almost all my time at the Dharma House, going to the Sangha House only to sleep, bathe and shave (which is what I do now instead of washing my hair), and sometimes puttering a little bit on my days off. I keep my robes here at the Dharma House, and what I need to get work done in the office and such, and generally don't need to spend time up there at the Sangha House much. I'm here more or less from 6am to 10pm most days other than Monday. Sunday evening I may or may not go "home" early, depending on whether I do ZCO's program or not (and I don't think I've done that for the last few weeks at all), and Monday and Tuesday mornings I don't have to be here early. All other mornings I'm making breakfast, and need to be here by 6:15am at the latest.

Even though it's my day off today, I'm here at the Dharma House. For one thing, we traditionally have brunch here on Mondays at noon, typically some sort of eggy dish (today it was omelets) and some sort of coffeecake, often a yeasted rolled thing with some sort of fruit. For the second thing, the laundry facilities here are better than they are up there, and I find that bringing my laundry down here makes sense to me -- I have a nice little shopping cart that I got in Boston that I used to use for laundry (and groceries too, of course), and that's what I use now for the laundry. Today there's a lot of extra temple laundry to do as well, but I'll get to that in the moment. Third, this is where the computers are. 'Nuff said.

This last weekend, Saturday to be exact, we had our biannual huge fundraising dinner called Kanzeon in the Kitchen (Kanzeon being the bodhisattva of compassion, the same as Kwan Yin in China). I helped out at it two years ago, running up and down stairs helping with serving, and ended up with really sore legs. This time the legs are fine -- I guess I run up and down stairs all the time now anyway, and am more or less immune to problems with that. The rest of me is still pretty tired. I did push myself as hard as I could, until I finally realized I had to stop carrying things and go home to bed. Yesterday was a recovery day, and I was feeling much better by last night. Today I'm kind of tired again, so I'm trying to take it easy.

However, as mentioned above, there is a ton of extra temple laundry -- all the linens on the tables plus the kitchen stuff -- aprons, towels, wiping cloths, and the like. The dishes weren't as much of an issue -- we actually were loaned dishes from a local caterer where a Sangha member works, and they charged only a handling fee to wash them. So we rinsed them off and loaded them back into crates and they got taken back yesterday. There were still cooking and serving dishes to wash, of course. And there are still some of those to be put away. But we got things cleaned up remarkably well.

This time I ended up being wait captain, that is, in charge of all the wait staff. Plus registration, making place cards, arranging for linens and tables to be set up, etc. What I know about working in a restaurant is minimal at best, but fortunately, I had lots of help materializing when I really needed it to. We had awesome food, and I stayed pretty much out of the kitchen, because I knew that someone needed to be focused on the front end of things, and that needed to be me. The dinner went off fine, though there were fewer people than two years ago. I don't know yet whether we made money or not, because I don't know how the expenses were. I'm reasonably sure we covered costs, but it was supposed to be a fundraiser and it remains to be seen how much we actually netted. It was fun for people -- everyone had fun, we had really great musical entertainment, and it was worth doing for that (did I mention that the food was outstanding?), but in terms of making money, it may not be worth it. And the cooks all were stressed, not having quite enough help, though they managed to get everything done.

And plenty of other stuff as well, but I'm going to let go of all that for today. One thing I managed to do last Monday was to write and finish my seminary paper for this past term, on the Avatamsaka Sutra, or the Flower Ornament Scripture. This is a huge tome (something like 1300 pages), and we only did the last chapter (Ch39) called The Entry into the Realm of Reality. That is "only" 400 pages. It's very flowery language, written in India several centuries ago, and was interesting to get through. It treats a journey by Sudhana, who goes around from teacher to teacher trying to learn how to become an enlightening being, how to teach others, and in the process runs into a lot of people and also celestial beings who specialize in lots of different kinds of enlightening activities. So one possible assignment, which is the one I chose, was to write a section with ourselves as the one Sudhana is visiting, and tell him what we specialize in. I became the monk Genko who has attained the meditation of cleaning kitchens, striking gongs, and staying on schedule. It was fun to write, and ended up much funnier than I expected it to. Gyokuko, who taught the class, read the paper and laughed (I referred to her in the paper as a tenzo [chief cook] who habitually messes up the kitchen when cooking [which she does, and knows she does]), asked me a couple of questions, and told me I passed.

This is pretty significant, because I've been taking seminary classes for quite a while, and frequently don't manage to write papers for them. Last year I could barely put words on paper, and couldn't deal with the classes on the level of words at all. Obviously I'm in a different space this year. In general, I feel better. I went through a lot of emotional upheaval last year, dealing with old karma, and it was something I really needed to do. But it wasn't what I'd call fun. In a way, it kind of took me apart, deconstructed the self. Now I'm able to be in a better space, to let feelings rise and fall and not get so attached to them and not push them away either. I'm finding some sort of balance here.

The seminary program is designed to take three years, but it's obviously taking me longer than that, because I've been interrupted with it more than once. I've actually sat in on the History and Texts class twice and have yet to write a paper for it. So when it comes around again, I'll probably sit in on it again and this time will write a paper -- in fact, I already have an idea for part of one of the papers.

Well, I could blather on more, but suffice it to say that I'm busy and doing fine. Haven't yet caught any of the bad colds or other bugs I'm hearing about, and hope that I will escape most of that this year. Quite the contrast to last year, when I was sick a lot. Hope everyone else is having a healthy winter.


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