Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First night in Jerusalem--Steven Hagen's "Meditation--Now or Never"

Last night we held the Tuesday night group in the new City Center space for the first time.  As seems always the case with construction projects, nothing but a deadline gets the contractor close to finished.  The day felt harried.  The glass contractor hanging glass panels over the windows, Sears employees replacing the dented refrigerator door, Becky Colwell and her sister unloading zafus and zabutons and ritual objects from the Torrey zendo and shopping for cleaning supplies, me running between the law office and stores buying last minute items for the kitchen, Jim Bilski and I mopping the floor, wiping the tables and chairs, and laying the grass rugs that define the meditation area, then early-arrivers vacuuming dusty zafus and zabutons and setting up the zendo.

Finally, in place of the yet-to-be-completed altar, under a spotlight that needs adjusting, a small table from home upon which I placed a vase with Diane's Valentine's Day roses and lilies, a small buddha with a tiny golden bundle of sticks which had been Diane's when we first met, and a candle and incense bowl from my personal make-shift altar/bookshelf.  

People arrived.  They became very quiet as they sat down.  Far less chatting than in our living room.  The space seemed to absorb their energy.  They felt calmed by the space, made reverent; the space made reverent by their calm.  Jim served as my jisha.  For the first time the space heard an inkin, a gong, smelled offered incense, held a community.

I remarked on the feelings that come with change, good or bad, of transition.  The feeling of being at sea, unmoored.  Grasping for the familiar, and finding that what is there is not the same, that the familiar is unfamiliar, and that the new is foreign.  My teacher is the same yet not; my practice place is lovely, yet strange.  And lacking familiar, comfortable referents, I am not the same.  I cannot find the self to which I am accustomed.  Around me the whole sangha seems to manifest the same feelings.  To each of them, "we"are not who we were, so they each are not who they were.  Disorientation reigns.  Each of us wants to blame someone for this discomfort.  Whom?  First another, then ourselves, then the teachings.  But then our practice settles in.

There is no comfort in that which is sought-after.  As Steven Hagen says in the book for the evening's discussion, from a meta-perspective, everything is permanently perfect in its constant change.  Meditation, practice, reveals this slowly as we are transformed by it.  I exhale and feel present in my breath even as it is constantly different, a moving space of calm that is the hub of the wheel of existence.  We mutually exhale and we are jointly comforted by our constantly changing interrelationships.  Buddha is found.  Sangha is reestablished.  The Dharma is known.  Then we move on.

A night in a rented space in Jerusalem.

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