Tonight was community night for Wind-in-Grass. All the cushions were taken (note to self- get more cushions), and as we settled in, I gave the group a choice. A messed up game, or a more messed up game. Actually, I clarified, a weird game, or an uncomfortable one. Maybe we need help because everyone went with uncomfortable.
So after we sat, I laid out the rules.
There were two spaces, the one inside the cushion and the one outside the cushion. A timer would run for 7 minutes. A bell would begin and end the time. You were free to move between the spaces, in and out, but if you were in, you had to hug. Hugs would go on as long as they had to. No talking. That was it. I asked people to notice what was going on. What they noticed in their body. What they noticed hugging. How they knew to hug. How they knew to stop. Where they felt tension, what stories came up.
[Aside- I thank the young dharma group for the idea, which I borrowed].
It felt good to take our practice and bring someone else into it, and to move up and take our meditation and awareness off the cushion. There were gingersnaps and tea, which probably also helped things along.
A: Noticed how there was almost a peer pressure that she felt was coming from the group, or a pressure that she felt to join in. She noticed how she waited until other people had begun hugging to get into the group.
B: Noticed that she approached the space awkwardly, but then felt safe and comfortable, and later melted into the hugs and noticed how much she needed them. She remembered working at Esalen, where there was almost madatory hugging, but that this seemed genuine and close and comforting.
C. Noticed that at first, she was reluctant to join in the hugging. That at first, the hugs were stiff. But that over time, they got better. She wondered how good hugs would be with the group in a few more months of hugging.
D: Noticed that his self consciousness, the story he hauled around that the monitor he was wearing would disturb people. He also expressed how special he thought our group was. Which is a good thing since D is a big part of this Sangha.
E: Felt the hugs in his heart. And in hearts talking to one another.
F: Thought it was interesting the timing of the game...that she had just been thinking that she needed to hug and be hugged more. That she didn't get enough human contact at work. She also mentioned that she remembered how much she liked hugging women. And how she had once dated a man, simply because he gave great hugs, but discovered that it did not carry over into other areas of his life.
G: Was surprised to find that though she thought of herself as a hugger, hugging clients, postmen, and everyone, she was not comfortable with the idea and it took her a while to open to it.
H: Was not so sure about the excersize. At first. She said it sounded weird, but that when she got into it, it was pleasant and that she was grateful for it.
I: noted his own experience with hugging in general. He told about growing up, in a country where no one hugs not family and not friends. He described coming to California and finding out about the hugging. He mentioned at first it was really uncomfortable, but that later it became second nature and that he really enjoyed it.
J: Noticed that he hugs in exactly the same way he practices zen. And does everything else. Initially enthusiasm, then after getting into it for a wile, losing focus. Also, how he hugged, but then wanted to adjust the hugging, but felt obligated to stick with the stance with which he began.
K: is an infant. She was hugged a lot, but generally slept through it. She couldn't talk about it because talking is many months away. She seemed to enjoy receiving hugs, and drooling on the hugger.
then we opened up discussion, and got past the initial impressions and into how hugging spoke to us. we talked about the truth in the wordlessness, that is like the buddha, and how it was clear communication. We talked about how, without words, we interacted differently and got to know, or become aware, of parts of those people that words failed to describe. We talked about how good it felt to be an animal and be held. We talked about how words could be so easily used to distance us, and how physical contact, and eye contact, was so much more intimate and close. We talked about whether one could lie with a hug, or whether the truth was always there in such an act. We covered some beautiful territory, but once we go around once, I turn off the mental tape recorder and just melt into it. I remember lauging a lot, and that when we were done talking, it was dark, but for the harvest moon coming in through the window and the candle on the altar.
Like a hug.
Everyone who came, headed down the hill for community night. We took a table outside. We ate, we talked, we drank, we bounced babies, we lit cigarettes, we ate sundays. It was a good night, with a wonderful community.
“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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