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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 68 and so i began an affair with her lush, seething dharma, cheat- ing on my frigid-but-loyal Zen practice. on the cushion, suppos- edly steadfast in my zazen meditation, i was really thinking of paramour pema’s vivacious birdsong prose and rich, voluptuous metaphors. “go ahead,” i thought to the students, my jikijitsu practice going to seed, “move around all you want. have a good cry while you’re at it!” pema hit my g-spot: Gentleness. and yet it was the great soft one herself who ultimately sold me on the rigors of Zen life. Toward the end of her slim volume of talks she extols the virtues of inconvenience. “opting for cozi- ness, having that as your prime reason for existing, becomes a continual obstacle to taking a leap and doing something new, something unusual, like going as a stranger into a strange land.” “stick with one boat,” one practice, she suggests, and let it “put you through your changes.” if you continue to “shop around” you learn a lot about different religions, but very little about your true self. inspired, i redoubled my efforts as jikijitsu, refusing to don my skullcap during walking meditation one evening as moonlit frost crunched under our sandals. By the time the last winter retreat rolled around i’d contracted the dreaded flu-cold and achieved great enervation instead of great enlightenment. This, combined with my militant new desire to do everything by the book, set off a chain reaction. it led to the low point in a quota-busting winter of lows, when forty of my peers witnessed—to hearken back to my mentor’s warning—my “personal shit.” During The eVening BaThroom break of the final retreat, i didn’t doff my robes and try to navigate the sea of students and their teeming bladders. instead, i snuck down into a dank and grungy storage space behind our solar-panel shed. i made for a dusty corner and hiked up my robes to relieve myself. after a few preliminary squirts i had an ominous, involun- tary, sphincter contraction, and instantly my priorities changed. i needed to get to a stall. There was no denying this call of nature; no single-pointed Zen concentration would make it go away. This point was driven home with the first round of wet gas. “oh, you gotta be kidding me,” i cried inside. “You gotta be friggin’ kidding me.” i looked at my watch. The ten minute mark! everyone was in the zendo right now, waiting for me to start the sit. Via a bow- legged crab-walk—an embarrassing proposition to begin with Azendoisnotaplacetozoneoutfora week. Get out of your heads and into your haras! the “encouragement stick” cries with every crack. Gut-sit!