Last week's koan is still drifting in my head.
When I was in college, I played water polo. We practiced 7.5 hours a day sometimes, other times, just 6. Sometimes as little as 3.5 hours. But every day. On our triple days, we got in and out of the pool three times. Over the years this mounts up. It never gets easier, getting into the water. It gets hard like a wall when you are over-trained, underslept and over extended. most of us spent the better part of the season in pain of some sort, aches, contusions, arthritis, fractures, heart problems, etc. There was a hot tub. It was in the men's locker room. That hot tub saved many careers. We would wait in the hot tub while our coaches voice snorted like a bull by the pool, spewing streams of invectives, questioning our manhood, parenting, and in some cases legitimacy. Finally, he would start counting. Something about the numbers. If he got to one and not all of us were in the pool...well, we never found out. Dirk did one year. He told us he swam 100 100s, at least until he was too dizzy to count.
Anyway, we got in the weight room at 6, the pool at 7 or 8. It was Berkeley, and cold and always overcast. Sometimes it was raining. one morning RF roze by the pool deck. Everyone else hovered over it for some minutes, feeling the rising naseau, then managed to jump in. The trick was not to think. If you thought about it, you froze. Thats what RF did. There he stood. All 6'9 of him. Stood by the water while our mountain of a coach hollered at him nearby. "RF if you dont get in that &^^(ing pool in 5 G*()&()# seconds, I am goin to %&*$ing..." Then it happened. This man/boy started to cry. He was paralyzed. He could not move. PS generously got out of the pool limped over to him and pushed him in. He fell in, and started swimming. There was not animosity. I heard him thank P later.
And I remember being a kid, mom dropping me off at Canterbury Woods pool. I would wait until adult swim was over, then go tot he 4 foot area, exhale until my body weight normalized, and sunk to the bottom. I would lay on the black tiles looking up, listening to the thrumming of the swimmings, hearing the hard splashing of the kids, the occasional vibrato of divers. And I was held there in the warmth, looking up, the pale world overhead. It was embryonic, fetal. It was perfectly unseperated from everyone in the pool.
The line up in Maine and New Hampshire in the winter would often have iceburgs floating in it. You had to be particularly cautious. water on water, when the forms and velocities are working against you, is disasterous. But we were out there. Out there in the 29 degree water, faces coated in vaseline to prevent frostbite, laughing like deranged seals in the cold, hands above the water line, our surfboards icing over.
How about you?? What is the cause of water?
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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