Wednesday, May 07, 2008
As I mentioned previously, on April 27, Ana and I conducted the third editon of a "Zen Meditation" segment at the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention. This year, like last year, it was the first "panel" up on Sunday morning, replacing some sort of nondemoninational service that apparently hadn't been working too well at previous conventions. The above is apparently the only extant picture of the session itself; it shows Ana and I but unfortunately doesn't show the twenty to thirty people who were in the room at various times; at least twenty of them did zazen and kinhin with us, which has to make it the largest Zen session I've ever led, or co-led. And no, I'm not checking my email in the picture; I was using my PDA as a timer.
The MTAC presentation honestly won't do a lot for Zen in Nashville as a whole (although the first one two years ago made Ana's connection to our group, which makes it worthwhile, and we do seem to have gained another sitter this year), mostly because most of the people who show up are from out of town, or out of state. MTAC reportedly had about 4,000 attendees this year. But the growing attendance, and the growing degree of maturity, genuine interest and understanding in the attendees, seems to be indicative of something. Likewise, the Tuesday night Nashville Zen Center sits at the Barn, reintroduced in January for new members and the Soto Zen protocols, are taking off. Of course, most people who are shopping Buddhism or "spirituality" in general won't stay with Zen. Zen is sort of the end of the line, the giving up of all spiritual pretenses, and most of the people who are out looking aren't ready for that. Nevertheless, I am coming to recognize the kind of people who come to stay; they simply aren't having any of anything else. And finding these people is as encouraging to me as it is, hopefully, for them.
And honestly, as the world falls apart around us, it's nice to have something going well. On a personal level, having finally come out of the funk I was in for most of April, I find that (surprise!) the problems I wasn't facing very well are still there, but now have to be faced. My economic future at the moment seems to be a microcosm of the country as a whole; the income at my present employment seems to have gone to shit across the board, and I'm faced in the next month or two with figuring out how to make a living wage, whereas I'd thought this was all worked out a year ago. Another surprise: problems continue to arise. Yet I do find from past experience that these periods of crisis are more productive in important ways than the times when I have the illusion that all is going well. So having my brain chemistry back, as well as probably the best social support I've ever had in my life, I do feel ready to deal with the next problem. Thanks to Shawn's yoga class Monday night, by the way, which finished bringing me "home" (warning for locals: avoid the Downtown Y like the plague right now, it's a mess, and the best yoga is at Green Hills anyway).
Anyway, it's amazing to me that what I envisoned for the Nashville Zen Center years ago is coming to pass. Whereas I had hoped to be involved in a Soto Zen group which started to evolve inside the NZC, enough of the old NZC seems to have fallen away that the old group seems to be evolving into a new one with an actual lineage and teachers. Hardly anyone (maybe one or two) seems to have been driven away by the change itself; but life takes its toll on those without firm convictions. And as the country song says, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. If you're currently reading The Secret, please take note.
So, life right now is some good stuff, some bad stuff, just like always, but I have a deep feeling that something important and good is happening. And as darkness descends upon the world, that's a very powerful feeling to have.
By the way, my post on last year's MTAC is here. And then I couldn't leave without showing you this picture of Ana (on the right) and her friend in costume. No, I don't know who they're supposed to be.
And by the way, there's a half-hour video of the MTAC presentation out there somewhere. If I can figure out how, I'll try to post all or part of it if and when...