Camera! Why do I always forget it.
What a day today. We met at 12 at the Wind-in-Grass meditation hall on Carolina St. It was sunny, and warm and we kept the windows open until a gardener across the street decided it would be a good day to chainsaw down a tree. Even then it was the fumes, not the noise, that changed our minds.
But that is all another thing. We welcomed the group- 20 of us- and breifly introduced the program. It was a day of meditation, and movement. David made some opening remarks about Zen and movement. How Zen had traditionally ignored the body and its moving. His initial instruction, as he recalled it was "sit still and shut up". But not today. Today we would move through seated, yoga and somatic therapy meditations, and notice how each was a reflection of the other and yet calling in different voices. We then all sat, while David introduced the koan:
"In the middle of heaven and earth, in the midst of the cosmos, there is one treasure, hidden in the body. It carries a lamp into the meditation hall. It places the three story gate on the lamp."
After we sat with this koan, we discussed what we had noticed. David asked us to introduce ourselves, then encouraged us "now, what did you notice? And when you answer, answer knowing you are merely saying your name. Your response is as special and unique to you as your name." So we noticed the chainsaw, and our anger at its disruption, and the warmth and hope of possibility that this body was a treasure and the simplicity of the acceptance that something as mundane as carrying the lamp was right and true and at the center of the universe. We noticed the breath, and the stillness, and the fire beneath the gate. The transformation of body spirit and mind in the triple gate.
We took a short break, had tea, then piled the cushions and lay out our yoga mats. Blair Bodie, an SF yoga instructor, lead us through a routine. I don't routinely do yoga, so I cannot tell you what we were doing. I can tell you she was lovely and gentle and urged us to follow at our own pace, though she set a tough course. We breathed together and creaked and moved. I loved it being a community practice, with grey hair and brown, limber legs and stiff, novices and masters all moving together. After we moved for an house, we lay still, and enjoyed the silence. In the silnece, David recited again the koan.
We pulled the cushions in and discussed what had happened. Where is the koan?
Everyone was glowing. Some with warmth, some with youth, some with the tingle of breathing wholeness. Some noticed how the glow the the lamp filled the whole universe, and some how the yoga had moved them out of their head. Some noticed how their yoga was like their zazen- filed with avoidance and discomfort and a desire to get to a clear open place.
We talked for a while. I cannot do justice to the heartfelt admissions and observations, so I will not try. We served lunch. Sara G had made us kale with pumpkin seeds, rice and squash soup with goat cheese. Leah had brought fruit and cheese and bread and nuts and there was tea and water and dessert. We ate together and it got loud and friendly.
After lunch, we rejoined and spread wide our circle of cushions. Ariel Howland, who works in a local somatic therapy clinic, explained briefly the background to authentic movement. It was an expression of the subconscious, made conscious. We were invited to notice how we thought we wanted to move, and how we actually moved. Half the group stood with their eyes closed. They were invited to move, to follow that closest instinct and find the movement that it called for. The other half witnessed, watching and making sure that they didn't collide with anything. The group moved, they walked, and crawled and hunched, and rolled, and meowed and wallowed and turned and tapped and stomped. After 15 minutes we were invited to write, or draw, what had come up, then we shared. Then the groups reversed and the witnesses moved and the movers watched. And we talked.
After a short break, we all sat again with the koan. Then discussed. Everyone had opened, and settled. We talked openly about the day, about how movement.
It was a wonderful day. It was one of those days when your space in the middle of the cosmos was self evident and all the rest was play and safe and interesting.
Thank you everyone who came and poured yourself into the movement and the meditation. Thank you David, Blair, Ariel, Sara and Dan.
“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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