Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Am So Not Zen

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.


feralkat said...

too funny, adrienne! yes I remember the whole cushion fluffing thing from my days at a zen dojong, but only the master had a special "his own" cushion. Part of the chore duty lineup was fluffing them up and rearranging them neatly against the wall after a dharma talk or group meditation. brought back memories, lol, but i'm not sure if being attached to your pillow is a good zen thing, I mean, nonattachment was one of the pillars of zen, supposed to be...this sounds almost like they've given up attachment but not to the pillows, how elementary my dear watson, or else they were operating from some level of consciousness that had some sort of cootie imperative. LOL, thanks I enjoyed that.

Kalsee said...

Hi Adrienne,

I’m w/ you about all these man-made structures and rules…I just meditate at home on a comfortable couch in the computer room and go with what feels right spiritually.

When it comes to spirituality, I’m a non-collectivist basically, as these rules to me are of an egoic nature, as places/buildings can also dwell in the nature of idolatry for some…not to speak of consuming the earths resources to build.

The best things in life to me, from a spiritual perspective, are free and ubiquitous and simply felt on an intuitive level…no rationalizations required…

Have a good day…love, Bill

feralkat said...

ok maybe you're not cut out for that kind of zen, maybe there are other methods of regaining simplicity
but it's like saying i'm not cut out for that cooking class but it doesn't mean you're not cut out for having a meal...anyway more often than not i think we are on a road to somewhere whether we are taking the ticketed trolley, or just walking or maybe windsurfing who knows?

Adrienne Johnson said...

Hey there, FK!
I have no beef with Buddhism. There is a lot there for me to learn. But that experience reminded me of something I already knew- I prefer my enlightenment in the great outdoors and in my own time frame.

There has never been an organized group of beliefs that I have run into that made me want to join. Every once on a while I decide I need to join something, the PTA, a dojo, a book club... and every time I find that i am just not a joiner. Joining things always makes me angry.

I am sure there is something there that I should explore.

feralkat said...

i hear ya, i tested the limits of joining girl scouts bluebirds when i was a kid and quit that was an early indication, repelled i chose not to attend any of my graduations ugh couldn't take the uniform tassle hat and auld lang syne thing, and zen martial art as a young adult and i left but not till i got my basket of sanction for some reason convinced i needed it but now oh now i am so true to my intrinsic not-a-joiner nature hooting at the moon.

derway said...

Yikes, that is so different from my experience of zen. I guess I got lucky, that my introduction was so different from that.

Find a small zen group, that just focuses on dharma and sitting, without the rigmarole.

Here is mine:

In the end, you may find that being mindful enough to accept and 'not mind' the formalisms, is actually helpful.

Adrienne Johnson said...

Well, Don, you may be right. A little structure never hurt anyone. I am quite sure that challenging my authority issues, would be a healthy thing for my over all life, never mind my spiritual life. That day will come, but I don't think it is now, at least not in that way, not yet. I need more foundation before I challenge anything more in my life!