Monday, February 12, 2007

Ordination, January 7, 2007

Well, it's done. Wow, what an amazing day.

Much of this week has been pretty normal, with plenty of work to do. And today was no exception, until about 2pm or so. Then my teacher had me step into the bathroom to get shaved. We do it pretty informally here, as opposed to a much more formal activity at the monastery.

First, he used clippers to get as close as possible (leaving the little tuft of hair called the "shura" to be shaved during the actual ordination ceremony). Then he used a razor and shampoo to shave as much as possible. And finally he ran the razor lightly over the entire head against the grain. The result was a very close smooth shave, and a very bald head. After shaving, I took a shower, and then my teacher put his own blend of lotions on my head to make it smooth and also to soothe it a bit.

I love being bald. I love how it looks, and I'm getting used to how it feels. A friend took pictures, and I'll photoshop them tomorrow and try to post at least one on my blog.

After a while, I took my kimono and slip and obi across the street, and changed there. About 15 minutes before the ceremony I went upstairs to the hall and stood in my designated spot to wait. I saw several friends come in to watch, along with several people from the two sanghas (Dharma Rain and Zen Community of Oregon). No family, though.

The ceremony went off without any serious hitches. One minor glitch was that on one of the bows I did at the ordination altar (which is a low table that we all kneel at) I hit my head coming back up. "Ow," I whispered, but just kept going on to the next thing. After that I paid more attention to where that table was and made sure there was room when I came back up. And of course I'm totally not used to my new robes, and had to do a lot of bows in them, so struggled a bit with them. My kesa is too loose -- I need to re-do one of the patches and ties and move it over a couple of inches.

At this point, I still don't know how to put on my own kesa. In the ceremony the jisha puts the koromo and kesa on me. So I decided not to try to do the ZCO program this evening. I have to learn a few things before I can do all that.

In any case, I had no problems with all the bows, and was able to do the entire ceremony strongly. I'm very happy, and several people said I was glowing. The pictures show me looking confident and happy, which is an accurate picture of how I feel today. I got hugs from everyone afterwards, and there were wonderful cookies and fudge to eat after the ceremony for everyone.

I came back over here to eat dinner, which Gyokuko cooked up for something like 22 people -- residents here, monastery people who would need to have something to eat before doing their evening program, and a few other visiting teachers. One of the teachers told me to sit still and not help with cleanup. I went upstairs to the office to look at pictures. And then I went to my room to open presents and cards.

I'm overwhelmed by everyone's kindness. There were some amazing presents and lovely cards, and I find myself really touched. There's a beautiful mala from a new monk at the monastery. There are two books, one of poetry and another of photographs. There's a set of monk's bowls from the teachers at the monastery. And other things. Many wonderful cards and messages from people.

I've had many thoughts, especially this last week, about what it all means to me, but I don't think I can articulate it all very well. I had a dream/nightmare I think Thursday morning, and that was interesting. One thing I've found is that I'm not as overwhelmed by feelings and thoughts that come up. So there is still fear, but I don't have to avoid it and I don't have to be ruled by it. I can simply sit with it, and it eventually passes. I'm not as afraid of the fear any more. It's quite nice. I think the dream had some things to say to me, and I'm still processing them.

I started writing about all of this in some sort of attempt to explain or document my process. And I find that I can't really do that very well. Most of the important things that happen are impossible to articulate, because putting them into words just doesn't work. I mean, you can say things about them, but it's a little like speaking in code. You can only hint at it, and then not all that well. Unless someone already knows what you are talking about, it's impossible to explain adequately.

Nevertheless, I will no doubt continue to try to find ways to say something about what's going on with me. Today marks a significant transition. What it signifies is hard to say. But I feel it.


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