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2005-11-21 12:16 a.m.

lotus positions

Why do I find it so disheartening to see my former female high school students from last year all hussied up like street walkers? [SighÖ] Tonight I was talking to the mother of one who used to come to my conversation class. I asked her how her daughter was and she started singing ďDesperado.Ē

Our little jazz quartet had our first performance today. We did four tunes; I played guitar on the first two and clarinet on the second two. Actually I was very pleased with how it went; itís one of the best, if not THE best, public performances Iíve ever done. Iím happy with it, and the group dynamic has gotten a lot better since I got used to it and since I convinced the nominal boss dude (Office Dude) to let me adlib my solos instead of playing pre-written ones. His wifeís on sax and has never adlibbed before, but tonight (once drunk) she asked me to teach her. I have decided to pass on to her the sacred knowledge that was passed on to me, The Blues Scale.

So, as you may know, Iíve gotten interested in Zen the past few years. However, most of my experience with it has been theoretical, and itís only recently that Iíve gotten into how itís actually practiced. And that practice seems to be zazen. I was always confused by this, since the stuff Iíd read only talks about how NOT to meditate, and not how or even if you SHOULD meditate, if it discussed it at all. But zazen is definitely central to the way itís actually practiced, and I decided I better give it a go and see what itís all about.

So, I learned the basics of how to do it from a website and from going to the Soto temple on the Rock and asking the priest to teach me. Iíve been practicing. Iím not sure what I think of it yet. I feel like Iím calmer and more focused after doing it, but who knows if I really am. Thereís something about it that makes me want to do it more and more, though. When I do it I feel like Iím swimming on the surface of a deep ocean, and if I can just hold my breath long enough when I dive down Iíll find something really spectacular.

So, Iím hoping to attend the Rohatsu Sesshin at a Zen monastery in Nagasaki, which lasts from December 1st to the 8th. Actually, since Iím going to see the Pixies on the third and I have the Japanese Language Proficiency Test on the fourth, I think Iím going to start from the evening of the fourth. They said thatíd be cool. And since itís my first time and Iím not sure how this ďseven hours of sleep a night or lessĒ thing will go down with me, I think itís for the best. So basically, Iíll be doing zazen nearly all my waking hours (plus a fair number of what would normally be my sleeping hours) for about four and a half days. Maybe then Iíll start to figure out what this meditation shit is all about.

So today, to start preparing, I did zazen for one hour straight. I did not, unfortunately, attain satori. In fact, after the first thirty minutes or so it became an exercise in enduring pain more than anything else, as the half lotus position I was sitting in became quite uncomfortable. (I am, as of now, physically incapable of a full lotus.) It hurt, man. But I toughed it out. Yeah, Iím hardcore like that.

After the timer went off I suddenly became quite cold, like shivering-uncontrollably cold. I donít know if thatís 'cause I just didnít notice I was cold while doing zazen, or what. I crawled under my covers and turned on my electric blanket. Then I went downstairs and started lighting matches and putting them out with my bare fingers.

The idea to do this came to me while I was meditating. (You can see what a positive influence zazen has become in my life already.) You may remember the scene from Lawrence of Arabia, where a soldier sees Lawrence doing this and tries it himself. ďIt hurts! Whatís the trick?Ē he asks. Lawrence replies, ďThe trick is not minding that it hurts.Ē Little Wing actually claimed to be able to do this, which gave me a weird kind of respect for her. Iíd never had the guts to try it until tonight.

So yes, Iím understanding more and more why the samurai were so enamored of Zen.

After that I had to go to a dinner/drinking party and sit in seiza for forever. Yes, forever!

Mitsuya Cider tastes like liquid Smarties. Black Sesame Pocky tastes like ashes if ashes tasted good.

les feuilles mortes se ramassent,