Saturday, April 21, 2007
Zen in Strange Places
I've been wanting to put this blog entry up all week, but I've found excuses to delay it. First, like an idiot, I forgot my camera (among other things) and I've spent hours looking at pictures online to decide what to use to give you some flavor of the costumes I was seeing; there are a few here, and lots more here.
Anyway, last Sunday I headed out for the second year in a row to do a presentation on Zen at the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention. The whole thing started last year when on a whim, I emailed the organizer of the convention to see if there was any way I could be involved. I was a little hesitant; most of the attendees are kids, but I am a big fan of anime and wanted to check it out (I'd gone in for a few hours the year before, but I wanted to be involved. Anyway, Lucas Leverett, the president, noted the Zen presence on this blog and asked me if I wanted to lead a Zen "panel."
With some trepidation, I said yes. Please understand, I'm not certified to teach Zen to anybody, and April last year was when I'd first begun to make my connection to the Atlanta Soto Zen Center and an authentic Zen school; this was just after the disappointing Nashville Zen Center spring retreat that led me to look elsewhere for Zen experience, and I was open to anything. But I went in by myself on a Friday afternoon, winged it, and got minimal response, thought I did meet my friend Ana, whom you've seen mentioned here. This year, knowing a little more, and knowing how unlikely the event still was, I got Ana involved and volunteered again. I told myself that if it didn't work out, I'd sit for an hour, and that would be the last trip.
In my opinion, this year was an unqualified success. At least fifteen to twenty people showed up at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, some after an all-night rave, and most of them sat zaze with us for five minutes and chanted the Heart Sutra. I had the big bell from the NZC and the fish drum, and eveyone got involved; we even had them doing kin-hin (walking meditation). I don't know if any of them will sit zazen again anytime soon, but the seed has been planted. Hell, I wasn't ready to sit regularly when I first started, and I was at least seven or eight years older than these kids.
I wasn't the least bit shocked or startled by the mass murder last week in Virginia; if you 've been reading this, you know that I know that that's just the way things are going. I didn't even follow the news. I felt like I'd heard it all before. I didn't stop that one little nutball from killing all those people, but Ana and I did show a few kids who are already looking for another way, in their own way, that there are options. And that's all I can do for now, and maybe all I can ever do.