Monday, October 04, 2010

Of Yarn and Dharma Encounters

Back from sesshin (What? Another one? Yes, and please may I have more? Soon?). Before I left, I finished up the yarn that I had been working on. As expected, it isn't at all what I expected.

It is a big skein - well over 400 yds although I haven't actually counted up the yardage yet.

Have to say that it isn't one that I would reach for if given a choice but it is pretty. Since it will be joining my other yarns at the craft fair here in Sunnyside this weekend, it doesn't matter if it isn't my favourite. It may be someone else's favourite. Or favorite.

I also came back from sesshin with a bit of a cold. While it was somewhat of a drag to be less than perfectly healthy while sitting, it did reveal to me that it is possible to be fully engaged in sesshin while sick. Yes, you can sit still with a runny nose! No governments fell, no mountains toppled, no lives were lost. No, just some drippy snot ran down my face and then I wiped it away. Frankly, that is good to know.

As a natural enthusiast, I wish that everyone could experience sesshin - its challenges and delights. But I know it isn't something that can be forced. One either comes to it or not. On Sunday morning, my job was to be the front door greeter when the Temple was open for its regular Sunday program. If someone comes for the first time, I show them where to go, and as people come in late, I squeeze them in quietly after the program begins. After they receive beginning instruction upstairs, newcomers come back down to the zendo for the dharma talk given by the teacher, monastic or senior student. Yesterday, it was a special occasion - for the first time at the Temple, the teacher held a dharma combat, or as they more gently called it, a dharma encounter. In it, students line up and ask the teacher questions based on the topic he states at the beginning. In this case, it was about upaya or skillful means. It is an opportunity to get a glimpse of how people practice and how the teacher responds to each student individually. And also a chance to challenge the teacher in a way, even as he is challenging the students.

I have only seen it once before and both times it was an amazing thing - to see how others engage the teacher and to witness his remarkable ability to respond with clarity and deep compassion (and if you think that means he is always nice, please reconsider what compassion may mean). To me, to be able to witness this was like I was being handed the biggest and best gift ever. Then I looked around at the new people to see how they were absorbing what was happening. Some were fairly spellbound, clearly moved by what was happening. Some were anxious, obviously having trouble sitting still for so long. And some looked rather bored and like they couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. And so it is. What is to some a mind blowing experience is to others a bone-ass weird freak show.

And then it ended and we all went home.

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