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Lions Roar : January 2003
34 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 In a chaotic world it was comforting. Sitting in a chair in the zendo with feet flat on the floor seemed silly. If I was going to sit in a chair, I might as well have a cup of tea, a croissant—hell, why not be in a café or on a bench under an autumn tree. So I did go every single day, like a good Zen student, except in the wrong direction—not to the Zen center in downtown St. Paul, but to Bread and Chocolate, a café on Grand Avenue. I walked there slowly, mindfully, and it was grand. I didn’t bring a notebook. I just brought myself and I had strict regulations: I could only buy one chocolate chip cookie. And I ate that one attentively, respectfully, bite after bite at a table next to big windows. I felt the butter of it on my fingers, the chips still warm and melted. In the past, seven good bites would have finished it off. But the eating was practice now, the café a living zendo. Small bites. Several chews. Be honest—was this mindfulness or a lin- gering? This cookie would not last. Oh, crisp and soft, brown and buttery. How I clung. The nearer, the more appreciative was I, as it disappeared. “ Life is a cookie,” Alan Arkin pronounced in America’s Sweethearts. I fell over the popcorn in my lap with laughter. One of the deep, wise lines in American movies. No one else in the theater was as elated. No one else had eaten the same single cookie for months run- ning. I gleefully quoted Arkin, the guru, for weeks after. I could tell by people’s faces: this, the result of all her sit- ting? But nothing lasts forever. My tongue finally grew tired of the taste day after day. Was this straw in my mouth, this once great cookie? In the last weeks I asked only for a large hot water with lemon and wanted to pay the price for tea, but they wouldn’t let me. I had become a familiar figure. So I left tips in a paper cup, and I sat. Not for a half hour or until the cookie was done—I sat for two, often three hours. Just sat there, nothing fancy, alongside an occasional man chopping away at a laptop, a mother, her son and his young friends, heads bent over brownies, eat- ing their after-school snack, an elderly couple sighing long over steaming cups, a tall, retired businessman read- ing the Pioneer Press. I sat through the whole Bush/Gore campaign and then the very long election, through a young teenage boy murdered on his bike by the Mississippi, the eventual capture of the three young men Knocking on Heaven’s Door.