Rohatsu begins tomorrow night, and as we all know, this is perhaps the most important event on the Buddhist calendar, commemorating as it does Buddha's whole-hearted sitting that brought him to enlightenment. It's always busy here at City Center. People ask me how many people are sitting, and I can honestly say I have no idea, though I am guessing around seventy. I could say that I haven't done any preparation for it at all, though that would not be entirely true - I have gone and bought bowls, spoons and chopsticks for new oryoki sets; ordered monju from Benkyodo for the offering at the annual Suzuki Roshi memorial ceremony, which will be on Sunday morning - it is now forty years since he died, which does not make him any less present here; rehearsed the drummers for Buddha's Enlightenment ceremony on the 10th, and asked the garden to make sure we have dried flowers and herbs to toss around the Buddha Hall as we circumambulate.
What I have not yet done is tackle any part of what are going to be very thorny logistics. I have been getting a stream of notes, emails and calls over the last month, from people who want to sit, but who can't sit the full seven days. It would be nice - or rather, convenient for me - just to say, it's all or nothing, but life in the city is not like that. People have appointments they need to keep, events to attend, work to take care of, but they still would like to sit as much as they can, and I have been saying, sure, we can accommodate that. So I would guess more than half the people coming are not going to be there for the whole thing, and I have to make sure I have seats for everyone, as well as viable serving and cleaning crews for each meal and so on.
I could have started trying to wrap my head around this earlier in the week, but I was feeling pretty under the weather. It is a given in a community like this - and even more so at Tassajara at the beginning of a practice period - that if a bug comes around, it goes around. Many people have been out of the schedule in the last couple of weeks, and it continues to spread. Generally I don't get sick very much; I am grateful for a good genetic constitution and a robust immune system. So this week, when I felt off colour from Monday through to Wednesday, was as bad as it has been for me in several years. Happily, getting outside on Wednesday on a wonderfully sunny day started to put me on the road to recovery - it is warm enough to be sitting typing this in a T-shirt right now, which is a reason to love California.
When I worked at the BBC, I had a simple criterion for whether I was too sick to go to work: if I couldn't face the five-mile bike ride to Bush House, I was too sick. I know for many people there is a lot of pressure to keep showing up even when they are not well, and it happens here too, even though we encourage people to take care of themselves. I feel a certain expectation that I should be in the zendo if possible, and while I felt rather out of it, especially on Tuesday, I was able to sit. On the other hand, I had no problem with resting during the day rather than attending to all the things in my inbox and on my desk, including sesshin planning. My brain felt too foggy to deal with all the details, and I knew that there would be a lot of changes before today anyway.
I hadn't planned to write about this, but after Mike's comment yesterday, I felt like I wanted to say something about practising with being sick. I remember at Tassajara, when I was on the kitchen crew, I found myself really struggling with tiredness, from the combination of the tough schedule and the physical activity. I talked with Reb about it, and he asked what I was doing during break times. When it's time to rest, he recommended, you should rest. I have tried to abide by this guideline ever since; the ino's schedule can be pretty strenuous, and if I rest when I can, it makes it easier to have the energy to get through the remainder of it. This is one thing I always notice when I am feeling ill - I appreciate, from the lack of it, how much energy it takes to get through a normal day. I also find something comforting in feeling the effort my body is making to fight off the virus: I enjoy a good sweat, especially when it ends up breaking the fever. So can we appreciate being sick? Can we say, when it's time to be sick, just be sick? Perhaps, if we can take it as a message from our bodies to slow down and take care of ourselves, pause from our usual activities - if we are able to do so - and also be thankful for people's offers of medicine and help: I received a thermos full of delicious fresh ginger tea with lemon and honey, which Blanche brews up for people who are suffering, and which, along with the good wishes, was a great tonic.