I didn't get round to counting how many people were in the room for the Young Urban Zen group last night, but it was probably close to twenty-five again, and it was another rewarding time - at least from where I was sitting.
Since I have not been shuso yet - and that won't happen for a few years - I do not get to give dharma talks or practice discussions, but I do love to meet with groups and to try to express the dharma. This first happened for me giving Stone Office talks at Tassajara during the summer, which are completely free form, and can sometimes just consist of a resident telling the story of the place and how it is to live there in the summer and in the winter. I was occasionally mischievous enough to try to confound people's ideas and expectations of what they thought practice was all about, but mostly I just enjoyed meeting people.
Here in the city, I have got to do this with the Saturday Sangha a few times, at the Thursday evening sitting group, at the newcomers' table on Saturdays, at guest student teas, and now with the Young Urban Zen group.
We sat for just about half an hour, which people seemed to manage pretty well, and then read again the passage from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind which I had selected last week. Someone immediately came up with the question of how we are supposed to practice with no goals, as Suzuki Roshi emphasised in that talk, when the first teaching of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, was explicitly about the goal of ending suffering. It took me half an hour of allowing the conversation to flow around the circle before I could even attempt to come up with an answer to that, and it may not have been worth the effort in the end anyway, but I noticed how much I was enjoying being present for people during the exchanges - and I think everyone in the circle got to articulate something - and meeting them with something of the dharma. This felt especially nice as I have been noticing how reluctant I have been to really be open enough to meet people for much of the last two weeks as I get caught up in my own emotions and ideas. And that was a part of the discussion, as we looked at how limiting your activity comes up against the world of multi-tasking, and there seemed to be an agreement that not getting stuck with your ideas about anything is a key part to making it happen. Or, as Dogen puts it in the Genjo Koan, "When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualising the fundamental point".