Monday, December 9, 2013

Turning Back to the Wall

Well, my friends;

It looks like our Practice Period is over, and it's time for me to say farewell to a great many of you.

I've enjoyed our time together, and learned things beyond the books. No matter how many "ah ha's" I get listening to the talks, or reading the sutras, there's nothing like turning a corner and finding that piece of learning put to the test; and if we're lucky, it leaves it's mark in the form of experience. Somehow we begin to own another piece of our understanding and practice. It's starts to show traces in our bones and marrow.

A lot of effort was put forth to make this whole affair happen. people and resources were brought to bear, and the communication was made. The talks took place; teas were had, and the Shuso got a good grilling, and had fun to boot!  I must confess, I fully expected to slip out the back door someday, years before I ever would have to allow something like a Shuso Shosan to happen. As time passed, that attitude was set aside in practice. Still, about 2 hours before the ceremony, I has an anxiety attack of the likes I have not had since I was a young adult. So what could I do but sit. Not to get rid of it, or feel better, or to enable me to "go on"; no, Paul didn't spend all that time with us, just to have us use the old habits and motivations. I was looking for the lesson; but it only appeared after the fact. So, I got up, joined the procession, and took my seat.

The anxiety disappeared completely; and we all had a great experience. Some of my fears came true, but it did not matter. It was not a miracle, or magic, or some divine intervention. When the time came, there was nothing to fear. That's all. The fear was the delusional part! How often have attributed overcoming something to some outside source, when in fact the fear was inside us, and just faded away because it had no basis in reality?  Quite a lesson.

Now, I'll welcome the wall again, and I have a much deeper appreciation for those that face-outward in service to the Sangha. There is a certain sacrifice when even your Zazen is done with one eye open, so to speak, by facing outward. While we relax, and surrender to no-sight. Deep thanks to the Dragon's and Elephants.

Deeply bowing to you all...


Friday, December 6, 2013

Day... what? Aw who cares! :-)

Well, that was a good lesson in "counting the days" of Sesshin!

The best sittings were always when which day were were on, had to be given a moment's thought!

Not much that I'd call noteworthy anyway...  it's been a great week, and the sittings have been "normal", if you can call them that.  I've been feeling "bubbly" at the rehearsals, and folks have been attributing that to the upcoming ceremony.  Upon reflection, I would say it's more because of the communication with other signers!  Oshin,  Ari, Jay, and other's have been around for the non-silence of rehearsal, and it's a real bubbly time for me to get to communicate this way.  Sesshin or not, I go for long periods with very little peer-communication.

It's wonderful to see the gang making adjustments as we rehearse to accommodate the interpreters and allow for modifications in other areas.

It's also mind-blowing that this is all being done around me. It's so humbling. I know the ceremony is for everyone too, and I'm so glad it's a group effort. Still, I'm the man of the hour tomorrow, and I find I am looking forward to it  AND for it to end!  There is a double content to something like this. We get supported, validated and feel special and accepted.  It also is a serious lesson in neutrality. Go for the "King for a Day" and it's just an ego trip - sure to be a let down later. Try to hide out and minimize and you miss the opportunity to serve. That's what these times are really about. Be they Head Soku, Abbot, Shuso or leading a small crew on work day. Leading, being honored, supported or just progressing in some way, sparks the community into action, and service begins. This is how receive a gift. Unsupported by anything.

Here's to tomorrow!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 1

Not sure if I'm supposed to still be blogging. But I did not want to lose this particular arising.

Paul talked about how it's the first day, and that we have not had the chance to get sore and uncomfortable yet. Rather, it's a time for the issues to arise. What is foremost in the mind? He encouraged us that there is no right or wrong here. Just what is. Allow it!

Of course I'm rather obsessed with understanding the interpreter on Saturday. This one-pointed obsession is a reminder of my first Sesshins. Amazing how the Universe decided to allow another more advanced repeat of old habits.

I feel scared and angry at the same time. It's set, and its in motion. Not much I can do to change the course of things. No backing out. No safety net to guard against failure. So, I am looking. Being aware. Per Paul's admonition, I will allow this to be seen and felt as the week goes by. The task is to give my best effort and knowing that I and others involved are all giving their best effort, to move forward with the very real possibility that this form will not work. I may not be able to comprehend much of the interpreter's signing. There is a mystery up ahead. It's not the fun kind I would normally choose for myself - but I can see the opportunity it presents.

What will happen as the week progresses? The energy of this fear and anger? The loss of control that will be the food for the day? I find I want to succeed for both myself, and for others. The Community. The future of Deaf people at Zen Center. To spare any shame I might bring on my teacher. Many reasons there, that I do not want to fail.  Flipping that over. It is what it is. I am taking it on faith that one can go into a thing like this, ready to accept failure, yet still giving the best effort!

Guess this will make a good Dharma talk some day...

Back to the Zendo!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

And we're off and sitting!

Wow, that was a fast Practice period!

Tonight starts Sesshin.

I like extended sittings when there is a lot of "sitables" on my plate. You know what I mean? Stuff that has collected and is either pressing on me, or feels like it's broken loose and is kind of rattling around in the machinery - not quite being addressed.

I know my mind will be on the Shosan at weeks end; but the lesson there is already being unpacked. As I said before, my current challenge is to read the interpreters without too much trouble. It FEELS like a game-stopper if I cannot pull it off. I was not even giving a whole lot of thought to the Q&A content itself. This popped up in my Zazen this morning, and I believe that if my sign was adequate to not worry about, then sure, I'd be concerned about the questions... after all, I was concerned about this day years ago, as I watched each Shuso get grilled like a cheese sandwich!

I'm in awe that our minds do these odd things to us!  I'm sure it's something "from the cave" that enabled us to survive in some way. That's the drawback to Mother Nature. It matters not what we want or prefer - it's what keeps us alive long enough to procreate. This lends a certain permission to doubt these things on a fundamental level.  Hence, the phrase "Don't believe everything you think!" It's not meant to be the truth - it's meant to keep you alive in some way.

So, we'll see what happens at Shosan. We'll probably do OK, and get through it. I just have this addiction to having fallback plans. For this, there seems to not be one. If I cannot understand the questions, from the interpreter, it WILL come to a screeching halt. Resurrecting my voice in some way will do no good if that happens - I can DO sign just fine. What an adventure! I will try my best and see what happens! Stepping off the 100' pole, eh?

The other thing is Seido's death. It seems I'm feeling much better - but I know that I am "in mourning". I always thought it was a long period of misery with no respite. For some, maybe it is. It will be interesting to see what extended sitting allows to come up. No distractions... day after day.

I wish you all a good sitting. Take care of your bodies at this time. Retire early, and push to discomfort, not pain; pain that might injure. Pushing to discomfort give us information and shows us that we do not have to always be itch free, or perfectly comfortable. It kind of opens the gateway to recognizing things as they are, rather than what we want them to be.

For you newbies - we tend to make an effort to be concentrated on what we are doing, and I may not wave or smile, or engage you at this time. It's OK. That's for form at this time. Solitude within the crowd. Let this, and schedule support you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Practicing Together....

Hello Friends;

Well, Sesshin is almost upon us - just a few days now. The past week and a half I've been dealing with the Death of a loved one. It took a bit of time for words to fall into place. This was a newer kind of experience for me. This is the closest person to me to ever die. All of my family has been alive for the 55 years I have been, save one grandmother, whom I was not so close to. At 106 she was ready.

Going back several months, I was talking to my teacher about the death of friends and associates, and how I was a bit concerned that I did not take the loss like most of my peers here. Several close friends here have passed on. While I was saddened and grieved for the loss, it felt rather short and not very deep, this grieving. After all, I loved these people, and missed them.  My teacher was unconcerned and encouraged me that we all grieve differently. If I'm allowing everything to flow at it's own pace - there is no set standard.

Then my one-time partner of 10 years passed away on the 17th. We were still in contact, and still quite close. It hit like avalanche, and it felt like I found all that missing grief. For several days it was difficult to function, and with the great support of my Zen family I was able to stop and grieve, be supported, and somehow managed to get both the space I needed, and the support and contact. Not sure how we pulled that off, but I am grateful!

The funeral was just two days ago, and I was terrified at seeing her in state, and losing myself to grief completely. But a different thing happened instead. (Isn't it always that way? Our stories can be so fictional it's a wonder we get caught up in believing them!). There was lots of family and friends, support and resting, and stopping, eating, looking at pictures, and her buddhist altar was there. There was an interpreter for me, and I was able to participate properly. At one point during the service, both the interpreter and I were gently shedding tears at the love and support.

I did not have the feared crisis when I saw here there, and I was able to say goodbye.

I am now very grateful for being encouraged to go. (Thank you Paul!). Sure, it was painful, and I did expect her physical presence to undo me. It did not. Just the opposite. It was like stitches for the wound. Still wounded, but now healing can begin. Since that night, the grief has been present, and then it takes a break. Then it arrives again. This cycle is very merciful. The pain must be felt and allowed, yet I get a break for neutrality, and even joy and laughter with my friends.

The koan right now is to allow that. Coming and going. Like the tide. The tides give our planet life, and the analogy is not lost here. I talk to her. Get a little angry. Grieve. Sad. Then joy pops up again.

So, I am reconnecting again with the Practice Period and getting ready for Rohatsu. Couple days rest here at Thanksgiving - and Saturday Ohsin arrives. He's Deaf too, and will share this time with me.

Looking forward to seeing you all next week in my peripheral vision! (Gotta watch that eye contact during Rohatsu! - QLTM).

Deep Bows...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ooo, been a while!

The Shuso thing reached full speed about 2 weeks ago, and time is starting to fly! I think the talks have taken a bit of a toll, because I'm the type to talk with just  few notes.  Until my sign improves, I'm writing them all out for the interpreter, and "glossing" a copy for my self written in ASL script.  I still get to deviate as I'm moved, but the the prep is time consuming.  To top it off, I have a tendency to throw it all away, if I don't like it, and then I start over. LOL!   Silly me...

Nonetheless, it's been a joy getting to know everyone, and participating in everything!

I think the request that I follow the schedule to sit all sittings, and attend everything is a great thing for the Shuso to do!  We tend to fall into the false notion that we do not have enough time. That's possibly true at times, and so we work with it. The real statement behind my exclamation "I have so little free time", is "I want to have more free time to just play and relax!"  It's a real eye opener!  When I first started, I applied the admonition that works so well with sesshin:

Give yourself over to sesshin, and the schedule.  This time it was to give myself over to the whole PP, and the shuso schedule.

I'd love to say it was a kensho-marvelous success, but, well, I've had my successes and failures. The great thing is the overall effect. Areas of resistance are encountered. Lessons are learned; such as what it REALLY means to say YES at every opportunity. (Sometimes you have to say "Yes, I can't do that.")

So, I'll see you all on Wednesday night for my third talk. Thanks for all the support and friendship!

Bows to All


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Glorious Mistakes!

Good Morning!

There was a WSM talk this morning, and when the speaker was done, and ready for questions - he said "as Keith would say", and then signed the word Pop Corn!

I chuckled at the error, and then had this cascading experience of understanding how a single action or mistake can cause a whole chain of events! Not the speaker's mistake - mine!

At last nights talk I was curious why we went into Q&A. We usually do not on Wed night talks. But it turned out to really add life to the event.

When this morning's speaker signed popcorn for question, I realized that my error had led to questions. You see, at yesterday's Staff Meeting, they asked me to announce Skit Night after I was done.

"Please remind me if I forget", I asked.

They know my fondness for popcorn, and that I'm going to make some for the event, so they all signed popcorn, and told me they'd do that after I was done, as a reminder.

Last night I finished, and no signed popcorn! So I did, so as to say "hey, where is my reminder?"

I'm guessing here, that the interpreter was staying in context, and said Questions! The sign "popcorn" is nearly identical to "questions", and one would expect questions after a lecture. So we launched into questions, much to my surprise.

I Shared this because it was awesome to see this chain of cause and effect, so clearly. This must happen much more than we are aware - so that makes a huge part of our life-experience an unpredictable series of cause and effect.

What a hoot!