Weekly Update: 4 January

My plan is to write a weekly update every Sunday. This is the first one.

Why a weekly update? As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my Ango commitments was to start a daily writing practice. I didn’t do so well at this commitment. I wrote here and there, but not even close to every day. So I’m setting a slightly more manageable goal: to write at least weekly (per blog, ideally). Once I’m doing this on a regular basis, I can work on increasing the frequency gradually until I’m writing every day.

Last week was fairly busy. It was the first time in over two weeks that I worked in my office, and even then only during part of the day. The office is cold and lonely. My office mates haven’t been working there due to the weather and holidays as well. I interviewed a few developers for an open contract position that I have open.

On Wednesday (New Year’s Eve) I worked at home. Sherri arrived in the later part of the afternoon and we prepared an African Peanut Stew and Matcha Cupcakes for the NYE festivities at the Dharma center. Every year ZCO and Dharma Rain host a New Year’s Eve get together. It includes a potluck, dancing, a ceremony welcoming the new year and, of course, silent meditation.

Sherri and I arrived just at 7pm. Already there were a number of people in attendance, though I think many of them were ordained members of both groups. Usually there isn’t such a high concentration of ordained individuals at Downtown center events, but most everyone comes down from the Monastery for New Year’s. Sherri and I set our dishes out and the started socializing. Sometime later Hogen called everyone to attention, we chanted our meal chant and then everyone lined up for food. Sherri and I were delighted to find a number of vegan dishes and shared a large plate of our stew, a nice noodle dish, a quinoa salad and brussell sprouts, among other things. Most people sat on the floor and I felt a great sense of closeness and community.

Around 8:30 or so, Chozen annonced that she would lead a series of circle dances upstairs in the zendo. Those who wanted to participate headed upstairs, including Sherri and myself. I really enjoyed the circle dances. They were simple, communal and fun. I liked singing along and laughing with everyone when we tried to rember if we were a “1” or a “2” (in one dance, 1’s did a particular move at one time, and then 2’s at another time).

After the circle dancing DT distributed slips of paper and pens. Hogen instructed us to write down anything that we wanted to let go of from 2008. During this time people also worked to put the zendo back together (cushions in the right place, etc.) and to clean up from the potluck. I’m starting to think Zen centers are among of the most efficiently run places on earth! Slowly people gathered in the zendo and sat quietly waiting for the next, more formal portion of the evening to begin. Next the teachers arrived and sat down. Then we began the fusatsu ceremony, which is a ceremony of attonement and renewal of vows. There is a lot of bowing. Really. I’ve completed this ceremony once before, at the beginning of Ango and had forgotten how much bowing there is. Additionally, during the latter part of the ceremony we lined up (row by row, as instructed), approached the alter, lit the pieces of paper we’d written on earlier and dropped them into the fire. As people did this we chanted the Gatha of Atonement over and over again:

All evil karma ever committed by me since of old,
Because of my beginningless greed, anger, and ignorance,
Born of my body, mouth, and thought,
Now I atone for it all.

Then we sat two periods of Zazen (separated by a wiggle bell, rather than the usual walking meditation). This particular zazen was fairly challenging. I was cold and it was late so I was very tired. I must have yawned 20 times during the last period. Plus something I’d eaten earlier was giving my intestines a particularly bad time and they wouldn’t be comfortable or quiet.

Finally the new year arrived. The monastics served apple cider to everyone, one by one, in the style of a tea ceremony. I thought this was lovely. There’s something very powerful about the silence and the simple offering. By this time it was well passed midnight so Sherri and I collected our things and headed home.

The next day we slept in a bit and then headed off to Eugene. I’m going to write about our Eugene trip in a different post. Saturday we hurried home and I dropped off Sheri at her class just a bit late. After dinner, Sherri and I watched quite a bit of What About Me?, the follow-up to 1 Giant Leap. I can’t recommend these two films enough. Check them out if you have the chance.

Today ended up being unexpectedly busy. I tagged along with Sherri to SE Portland where she had a hair appointment. Afterwords we did a bit of shopping at Powell’s on Hawthorne where I picked up a handful of trade edition sci-fi books that I’d been wanting. Then we headed over to Tao of Tea’s Teahouse and Restaurant where we enjoyed a pot of second flush Darjeeling, a pot of 500 Mile Chai with rice milk, along with a very tasty lunch. Refueled and caffinated, we headed off to Bed, Bath and Beyond to look for a small pressure cooker for me. Having no luck there, we walked over to Target. Here we picked up a few essentials and spent a bunch of time trying on things we didn’t en up buying.

This weeks reads included Percival Everett’s Wounded.