Monday, July 30, 2007

Written July 28, 2007

I didn't do anything all that special for my birthday, and yet I did a lot yesterday (Saturday, July 27), and it was pretty cool.

I started the day preparing for and then participating in a ceremony for Dharma School alums, who had a daylong retreat and then an overnight last night (many still sleeping this morning [it's now 10:45am] probably for a little while longer yet). I was chant leader for the ceremony and Domyo was the celebrant. It went off pretty well. We shortened the sitting meditation periods slightly, and many of them had never done the walking meditation before, so Domyo had to instruct them. The ceremony she chose was all in Sino-Japanese. It's a fairly new ceremony for us, and I haven't done it all that much, and it was the first time I did both drum and chanting at the same time on that one. So it was a little challenging for me in some ways. We carried it off fairly well, in spite of dropping a beat somewhere along the 3rd (fastest) time through the Victor's Dharani.

Came home, checked e-mail, and then Gyokuko asked whether I'd like to accompany her and Kyogen to the gym. They have a membership that allows them to bring a guest, and I've gone along several times with them when I can. I sometimes bicycle and then go swim in the pool, sauna, etc. This time I managed to forget my gym shoes so didn't do the bike. Instead just swam for a while, sauna for a while, shower, and then, as prearranged, went off by myself on public transportation (the 24-Hr Fitness place is right next to the Hollywood Transit Center).

I stopped at Lloyd Center and ate a somewhat leisurely sit-down lunch at a restaurant, a rare treat that I seldom indulge. Then on to my eye appointment at Kaiser. The last several years I've been going to a place on Broadway near where I used to live, where I really liked the optometrist, and spent somewhat extravagantly on glasses. Now that I have no income but do have vision coverage, I decided it was time to go back to Kaiser and just do it that way. I really liked the doctor I saw yesterday. She was friendly, capable, quick (but didn't feel rushed), and it was all fine. She found that my eyes are a little different. They look fine, she said, but she wants to check with the doctor I've been seeing for several years to make sure that the asymmetry is stable, and not a new development, which could indicate some risk of eye disease. I'm pretty sure that is the case, but the previous doctor didn't mention asymmetry to me, so I don't know for sure. I'm glad she's being careful. I ordered new glasses, mostly because I didn't want to be without these for two weeks. They will still cost me a lot of money, but maybe a couple hundred dollars cheaper overall than what I would have paid going back to Broadway. So I guess it's worth it. We'll see how I like the glasses.

Went back home on the lightrail and bus with eyes dilated, and was pretty tired when I got home. A brief rest, then made dinner for myself and my friend Jyoshin, who then went out with me.

We went to OMSI to see Bodyworlds3. This is an exhibit of plastinated dead bodies, and it's pretty fascinating. It makes the results of dissection accessible to the masses. It's very popular. Tickets aren't all that cheap, and you have to sign up for a specific time to go in so it doesn't get overwhelmed. Jyoshin and I went through on our own, each at our own pace. I found myself particularly interested in internal organs, though there was a lot more emphasis given to muscles and bones. They really did cover all the body systems, though. The arteries were died a very bright red, and some of the exhibits were strikingly beautiful and artistic. I still found some confusion with organs, where they all are and how they are situated relative to each other. It's hard to see that clearly, because they are all kind of packed in there and not always clearly labeled. So I went back and looked again and found an exhibit that I had overlooked, with the stomach, small intestine (9 meters of them! all laid out in a way that you could see how much there is) and colon. I can't remember at this moment what all else was included in that, liver I think.

I have at least a better idea of all those organs and their relative size. Some hazy idea of how they all fit in there, though not entirely clear or solid. Pancreas, spleen, gall bladder, and kidneys -- other than the kidneys, of which there are two, those are the ones I get a little bit mixed up with. They are similar in size, and all seem to have something to do with digestion (pancreas also with the blood -- it sounded like even though you could argue that it's all about digestion, there were two separate functions, one directly on food going through the digestive tract and the other with the blood itself). The size of the liver surprised me -- it's big! It looks very different from those others. And the diaphragm and lungs are higher than I usually think of them. You could really see how the diaphragm divides the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragm is also maybe bigger and thicker and tougher than I usually picture it.

We walked home, as getting a bus to there was easy, but getting back was more difficult. By the time you walked to a bus stop coming back (it goes over a different bridge, on a different route going back) you might as well walk home. So we did. Stopped on the way at Burgerville and got a small chocolate shake -- that was my birthday dessert, I suppose. It was a lovely evening for walking, so even though I was tired of being on my feet, it was okay. We talked about our reactions to the exhibit. She had more trouble with the fact that they were actual dead bodies than I did. She felt like they were missing something. Of course, they were dead. And just the physical aspect was all that was being explored. She felt that not everyone looking at them was exhibiting proper respect. She could see, though, how I found it fascinating, because of my interest in systems and how they work. I've always looked at bodies, even my own, that way. What an interesting thing, how does it work, how is it changing with the years, what does it mean that at some point it will cease to function and I will no longer have use of it? Anyway, talk like that.

This morning was another treat, unexpected. After I got home last night, Kyogen and Gyokuko noted that they would be going to a 10th anniversary celebration of another local Zen Center, and would I like to come along. So this morning, we went. The ceremony started at 8am. It's a Center that follows Charlotte Joko Beck, and generally doesn't do much in the way of ceremonies or robes, so we went in samue rather than robes. And then the teacher there was all dressed up to the nines in koromo, kesa, even tabe (the white ceremonial socks that are sometimes worn the zendo on high occasions).

Kyogen and Gyokuko were given seats of honor, and I was seated next to them. I found the ceremony surprisingly moving. At the end of the ceremony everyone was invited to offer incense. I was beckoned to follow Kyogen and Gyokuko, some of the first. I was being honored as a priest, and did my best to act as one. It was almost overwhelming to me. Here I was being honored when I had done nothing for this sangha, even though most of them don't know me. It became clear that it's not about me, not even about the work I do, but simply a role that I'm filling, something I'm embodying. Well, those aren't good words for it, but I'm still sorting it out, I suppose.

Then the teacher spoke, and then others in the sangha spoke, and I found myself responding to their words and to the spirit of love and appreciation in the room. Yes, I understand that. I could feel how we are all connected.


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