There has been a marked drop-off in attendance in the zendo since sesshin finished. Partly this is due to natural shrinkage, as some those who brought so much life to the building this past practice period have left; in other cases, residents seem to think it is okay to dial back their efforts. I have made a couple of announcements reminding people that interim, with its optional schedule, is not until next week, but I can't say that this had any effect at all. I don't think it is sickness now either - everyone has had it and is pretty much over it, except for a few lingering coughs. This week the Abbot is also away, and even at Tassajara during practice period some people seemed to think it was more acceptable to sleep in if the Abbot wasn't around to notice your absence. This is only a temporary phenomenon, though, and will be more than offset by the January effect, when we get more people coming from the outside, having resolved to become more diligent with their spiritual practices, just as gyms get more custom, perhaps from the same people looking for improvements across the board.
Happily, we haven't noticed a similar decline in attendance for Young Urban Zen. I realise I haven't written much about it recently, but since October we have been getting twenty-five to thirty people consistently each week. Naturally there is some turnover - someone will come to try it out once, or come for a month and then not be so motivated to come - but at the same time a strong core group is being created, who have an increasing stake in YUZ and how it continues to develop. Plans are in place for an overnight retreat at Green Gulch in February; at a recent brainstorming session after a meeting, there was great interest in forming study groups to go deeper than we can in the Monday evening format; and we have been finding other ways to be together outside the usual meetings.
Last Friday a half-dozen or so of us went to check out the Dharma Punx local Urban Dharma group , led by Vinny and Gene on this occasion, just to see how other people are doing this. I got to sit guided meditation in a chair, something I have not done in a long time, and I enjoyed some of the dialogue that followed, which ended with a ribald Eddie Murphy joke that I was going to have Maggie or Simon repeat for us last night, though in the end the moment for it never came...
On Sunday, and last night after the meeting, some of us were also toasting Kelly's departure for Austin. She has been one of our most regular members, and since starting to come to YUZ, has also done one-day sittings and been a guest student in the building for a week - Matt is currently following in those footsteps right now as well. I mentioned in the last post how I might head off to Tassajara in September if there isn't anything compelling to keep me here, and YUZ has been one of the things that would most tempt me, as it has been a richly rewarding experience to be able to help with the group; at the same time I have no wish to be inextricably identified with it, and am happy to know that it would continue just fine if I never showed up again. Sometimes, though, as we are noticing with the enthusiasm for study which has not quite resolved itself into a time, place and subject, we need to encourage people to feel empowered to take control and make a decision. Probably it will all sort itself out after the holidays.