Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year and Clean Robes

One thing I did manage to do in my time off was get all my robes cleaned - jubons,  kimono and koromo, even the kochihimo, so when I put them on again last night, after a week of not wearing them, they felt soft and fresh, ready for another few months of action. I had the same feeling on my zafu as well, as we started our late night sitting - my body felt relaxed and ready to begin again.
I have been trying to think back on memorable New Years of the past - one that came to mind was being in Hungary back in the mid-eighties, and drinking fabulous and cheap Russian champagne in the snow; then I also remembered a time when I was working at the BBC, and I ended a live broadcast in Thai at thirty seconds before midnight; in the studios we had a live feed of Big Ben, so I faded that up and listened to the famous chimes and bongs with cheering in the background; the Thais were not so interested, as it wasn't their new year. Having commiserated today with one resident who was out with people last night and not really enjoying herself, I appreciated that at Zen Center you know what you are going to get, and this year I really enjoyed it.
We always get a decent crowd for the program, people who want to have a mindful time over the New Year, and often these are people we don't see at any other time - it's wonderful that they are willing to help us clean, and then we offer them noodles and zazen. The zendo was completely full last night for the two periods, and with so many new people, that made kinhin a bit haphazard. People did start to wilt a little as the periods went on, to the accompaniment of the densho. The traffic outside got progressively quieter as we approached midnight, and then, just as as happened every other year I have been here, a group of people came out into Lily Alley, and did a ten-second countdown to midnight (I suspect they know that we are sitting, and are doing it for our benefit), which was followed by fireworks near and far, crackling and booming. We continued to sit, with the last strikes of the densho. I had done the maths, and thought I had it set up so that the bells would finish exactly at the top of the hour, but that was on the premise that it would be struck every twenty seconds exactly, which I could hear wasn't always happening, so I let go of that part...
When we went out to the courtyard, there was a spattering of rain, but the bonfire was going strongly. We had a lot to burn; apart from clearing a lot of old copies of ceremonies out of filing cabinets, I found some attendance records that Greg had not got rid of last year, in addition to all the ones from this year, and we had a whole tub of incense stubs as well. A small group of us stayed out there until one o'clock feeding the flames with the shredded paper, at the end of which my robes did not smell so fresh and clean.

When distributing the various doan jobs that needed to be covered for last night and this morning, I kept a few back for myself, including the wake-up bell. Now, regular readers will know that I have rung the wake-up bell a few times in recent months, but I can definitely say that this was the first time I have really enjoyed doing so, as I felt relaxed, I was not rushing and I was not wearing most or all of my robes, but clothing more appropriate for the purpose. This also gave me a chance to get the last few pieces of preparation done before we had breakfast, including the all-important mochi offerings, topped with a tangerine...
The zendo was not so full this morning as it had been last night, though we had more residents this time, and by the time we came up to the Buddha Hall, there was a nice sized crowd. Jordan's idea of adapting our usual early morning procession to fit the time of the Saturday talk worked out very well. We chanted the Heart Sutra in the Buddha Hall, and processed to altars around the building. At each one, one of the temple officers spoke briefly. I knew I had to say something in the zendo, but Paul managed to surprise me nonetheless - I was supposed to be offering incense to him, but he stepped back and had me be the doshi, and bowing at the altar before I said my piece. I have had a number of people come up to me since and say that my words were fitting and encouraging; it isn't modesty that prevents me from putting them down here, but I can't remember exactly what I did say. I had a few lines prepared, and I mostly followed that, but as someone commented, "it was a great dharma talk, straight from the heart". Of course it is my job to encourage people to sit, so I should be able to articulate that sometimes.
We finished in the dining room, toasting the New Year, and then chanting the refuges in Pali, which sounded beautiful and harmonious in that space with everyone chanting.

8 comments:

Sandy's witterings said...

Thanks for your rundown of your new year and the kippering of your clean robes. With the west of America safely into the new year along with the rest of us, I suppose we can resume normal life again.

p.s. Glad to see you're still doing your maths with an s at the end.

Shundo said...

Well and truly kippered!
My only concession to Americanism is to pronounce schedule like school, because I can see that it makes some sense. I wrote something about this a while ago:
http://theinosblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/you-say-neither.html

L. W. Atkins said...

Posted at 1:11 on 1/1/11. Excellent.

Shundo said...

Very sharp-eyed of you Linda. Ten extra points.
It wasn't an accident: we had been talking at the breakfast table about the numerology of today, Jan 11th, November 1st and 11th this year. I was thinking what might be happening at 11:11am, but that was during the post-toast milling. When I was checking through my words and saw the clock, though, I knew I had to publish then and there. I made some further minor revisions later...

ksellman said...

Happy New Year! Re: timing - there is a campaign afoot on Facebook to declare November 11th this year "Nigel Tufnel Day".

Shundo said...

Happy New Year Karissa,
I had to scratch my head for a moment to put two and two together there...

L. W. Atkins said...

Not to sound devious, but you can make a post appear to have been published at whatever time you like, via the post options. (Thought I should mention it so you'll be ready when 11/11/11 rolls around.)

Shundo said...

But that would be cheating...