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Lions Roar : May 2015
It! It! It! T HE ROHATSU (Great Cold) sesshin—a week of inten- sive Zen meditation—takes place in early December ending on the eighth, the day commemorating Bud- dha’s enlightenment. At Green Gulch Zen Center, near my home on the fog-shrouded slopes of Mount Tamalpais in Northern California’s Marin County, meditation begins at 5:00 a.m. and lasts until 9:30 p.m. each day punctuated by service, meals, walking meditation, and two short rest periods. Talking, except for essential communication, is discouraged, as is eye contact and any behavior that might distract others from their concentration. It takes enormous collective effort to organize a sesshin, with volunteers cooking, serving, and maintaining the temple on behalf of those sitting. Consequently, great care is taken not to waste the opportunity or the gift of their service. I knew none of this when I signed up for my first sesshin after only a year of meditating, sitting, at most, two forty-min- ute periods a day at the San Francisco Zen Center. Nor did I know that in sesshin meals would be eaten in place at one’s sitting cushion, in the same painful cross-legged position one had been meditating in. They are served in a highly efficient manner, done precisely this way for hundreds of years. Each monk’s eating utensils—chopsticks, a wooden spoon, a cleaning apparatus called a setsu (resembling a doctor’s tongue depressor with a cloth pad sewed on the tip)—are laid across three nesting bowls called oryoki (meaning “just enough”)—covered by a Peter Coyote at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! the bird cried. It! It! It! And the world as PETER COYOTE had experienced it ended. Forty years after his first sesshin, the actor and writer finally gets the point of Zen. From The Rainman’s Third Cure: An Irregular Education, by Peter Coyote. © 2015 by Peter Coyote. Reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 64