Saturday, March 31, 2012

Diverse Notes From Sesshin

When I was at Tassajara, I tried to avoid reading the menus that were posted; I liked the meals to be a surprise - either a pleasant one, or if it was something I didn't like, I wouldn't get to work up a head of steam about it ahead of time. Sometimes, sitting in the zendo wondering what was going to be in the next pot, I would hear the distinctive shoveling sound of nuts being served, and in time learnt to tell the difference between the sound of pistachios resonating in a bowl and the sound of cashews.
This morning, for the last zendo meal of sesshin, the four sesshin leaders and their attendants formed the serving crew. There was something about the way Blanche let the almonds come off her spoon into my third bowl that you could only appreciate if you have served a lot of oryoki. It was done very carefully to make the least amount of noise possible.

Before I went into sesshin, a friend said that it was great that I would have a chance to go deep inside for a week. I had to let her know that although I might get a few quiet moments while sitting, as ino there would always be something that I had to ensure was being done, a note for me to respond to, someone to replace in a job because they were sick, a ceremony to organise, or some of the other work that I am somehow expected to keep on top of.
But I had some quiet moments on day five, when I had stopped feeling quite so tired. I also had moments of feeling wide open, between moments of feeling nothing but tension. The last two days were more busy, setting things in place not just for the shuso ceremony, but also a rakusu receiving ceremony last night and a memorial for this morning.
For some reason I had the idea that it would be most intimate for Konin to receive her shuso rakusu in the zendo, and Shosan liked the idea as well, so we arranged for that to happen, and it had the feeling I hoped it would, that we had just turned around from our sitting to participate together in this ceremony.
This afternoon was a little more grand an occasion, but I found I had a lot of energy this morning, and while there were some changes to the previously worked-out plans, everything happened in good time to be met and responded to, and I enjoyed taking care of the details.

Overall I thought the schedule was lovely, about the same amount of sitting as the Genzo-e, which made for minimal pain as far as I was concerned. When I first saw the schedule, I saw all the optional zazen periods, and the diligent student in me thought I would have to be at all of them, before I realised that they were the time when I would take care of most of my work, so that I could be at all the regular periods, which I pretty much managed.
There was a different feeling to it, and not just waking up without the feeling of my body having been through the wringer as often happens in sesshin; with work spread around the day, there was a different energy in the building to the usual focused work period in the afternoon; most importantly, of course, there was a quietness and concentration in the zendo.

At one moment, having gone from tightness to spaciousness somehow, I thought: in spite of ourselves, something is revealed. For my question to the shuso, I asked her what she thought that something was, and I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember a word of her answer, but I know we met at that moment, and that was enough. As she fielded questions from the room, Konin seemed to both be floating on the platform and fully grounded on it, but was of course, just being herself, and expressing her deep practice.

Now I know she is not a big fan of having her photo taken, so I will keep these to a minimum, but I thought these two were presentable enough.

Shosan reads her statement to Konin at the culmination of the ceremony

Shosan Konin and Blanche posed under the wisteria


Sierra said...

Funny you mentioned all the things you need to consider while sitting sesshin: responding to notes, making sure temple positions are covered etc. This is very much how it was for the wonderfully hard working Ino, Rokushin, at Upaya. I always wished she had more time to just sit, but actually now I'm sort of jealous. living outside the community I've found that to be one of the biggest adjustments...learning to be present in the midst of the long to-do list. I liked the point about noticing tension...a good reminder.

Shundo said...

Thanks for your comment Sierra. It is a useful skill. Sounds like the thing we are going to be talking about on Wednesday...
I will hopefully get to enjoy a quiet sesshin some time soon.