Over the years, I have been a great many things. A bit like that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he and Elmer Fudd swim around in a sea of hats and take on the persona that each one represents. I have fewer questions, these days, but a deeper need to study them. So, I am exploring some of the many paths of belief. The most recent of these, is Zen Buddhism at the absolutely beautiful San Francisco Zen Center. I listen to their dharma podcasts on my Ipod, all the time.
As the title may suggest to you, I did not click with Zen.
There are so many rules. I get their general purpose, to keep you focused and in the present, but holy cow. Walk in the door this way, walk out that way. Turn clockwise. If this bell rings wait here, but first take off your shoes while you stand with your back to the mat. Sit anywhere you like, but not here, or here, or here, or here.... and whatever you do, do not sit on anything
brown. Sit this way, but not that way. If the 'senior Dharma student' enters the room....
I do not respond well to that much structure. Due to genetic programming I have to follow a rule once I know about it, but with that many rules, I can't breath trying to follow all of them (which is the focus of the meditation class I was there for, after all). Despite listening to a very good, and timely , dharma discussion with the Abbott, about acceptance of the situation at hand, I was very happy to get out of there.
Here's the kicker- during the meditation class, I had to use a second cushion in order to sit comfortably, and there was a perfectly good one right in front of me. The meditation instructor, a Buddhist priest, said nothing about it. When the dharma talk was a few minutes from starting, an older nun came to me and whispered that I was sitting on the senior dharma student's cushion. I apologized and got off it immediately. Apparently, both of my cushions belonged to the senior dharma student. So I put the other one where I had found it, thinking the whole time 'why didn't the meditation instructor say anything?' So then this nun tells me they need to be fluffed! OK. I fluff. An hour later, the discussion is over, I can't feel my feet because of the position I was forced into by not being able to replace either cushion with one that was sanctioned for my use, and not only has the nun who kicked me off my cushion (very politely) slept through the whole talk, but so has the senior dharma student!
I will sit on the seats at the back of the room if I go to a dharma talk again. I am definitely not cut out for Zen.