Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Self-defiance, Jukai, and the end of Midlifemonkeygirls

Emerson wrote about self-reliance, I want to talk about self-defiance.

It's been almost two months since I've posted. I've been swamped with life these days though there's really no excuse to stop writing in my blog. I mean, even I know by now that writing is good for me. I always feel better after writing, not to mention there is always something to write about. But I've been battling my inner defiance lately, which is just plain silly. Basically, by not writing loyally in my blog, I have been cutting my nose off to spite my face. Or - cutting my zen off to spite my no-self (sorry for the bad zen joke, can't help myself at times).

But seriously, I tend to get into this messed up head space where I spite myself. Silly me. Then, it becomes this "thing", this whole not writing in my blog. Oh, I'll write in it this weekend, I tell myself, and then I don't. But the realization I've come to recently is that it's time for me to move on from this blog. Now don't panic, my readership of twelve, I'm not leaving the blogosphere, just this blog. I mean, when you think about it, the starting point of this blog was two years ago when I declared my midlife crisis. But now it's safe to say that I'm out of my midlife crisis. You just need to refer to my original post from (almost to date) two years ago to see.

Today, my crises are problems of abundance. I am now working, living in my own place in Oakland, have my dog back, and am officially in a relationship - with a woman my age! But, of course, the biggest shift has been my spiritual practice. On Saturday, I will celebrate my Buddhist practice by taking the precepts in a jukai ceremony at the Zen Center. I have been diligently sewing my rakasu for months now, and will receive it formally from my teacher after he writes my Buddhist name on the back of it.

Hence, I thought that this would be an appropriate time to end my blog - and start a new one (in the near future). There 's so much I want to say... but I think I will hold off on that for now. I will keep you all posted about my next blog. For its title, I am leaning towards Butch Buddhist. We'll see.

There are no goodbyes, though I do want to thank you for supporting my blog. It has been nice to know that there are a few of you out there who support my path, as well as a few anonymous people out there who are simply curious enough to read about my daily happenings here.

Meanwhile, here are some pics I took from my porch tonight. It was a hot one in Oakland tonight, but at least the sunset was equally blistering. And, of course, there's always Sadie...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Notations of the Second Read: Week 7 in the Marketplace

My summer sort of unofficially ends today. I start a workshop tomorrow at UC Berkeley, which goes for two weeks, then I start work the following Monday. I'm not terribly happy about this, though I did do what I said I was going to do this summer, which was to just hang out, re-bond with my dog, explore local trails, and get to Yosemite. The Yosemite trip never happened, unfortunately, but that's okay. I was too exhausted from the news of my dharma brother's suicide, and, as my girlfriend pointed out, perhaps I needed to not be alone right now. Oh, yes, I guess in that last sentence I just outed my girlfriend. I mean, you could have thought I meant just a girl who is a friend, but in my world, I mean my girlfriend, as in lovey-dovey, smoochie-smooch, I-heart-her girlfriend. I'm not quite ready to disclose too much more on this topic, but I will say that she's the best girlfriend on the planet. She's out of town this week, which is a drag for me, but it certainly does make me appreciate her even more...

My friend and dharma sister, T, spent the weekend with me. It was a nice break for her to leave the Zen Center for the weekend and hang out in the East Bay. We went on a nice hike in Tilden Park with H, another friend, and my lovely dog, Sadie. (Sadie, by the way, is the best dog in the world, in case you needed to know that). (I'm feeling a bit superlative as I write this blog post tonight, I'm seeing...). But back to my dharma sister, T. She's had a very challenging ten days. She is the person who found David's body after his suicide. It has been difficult for her, despite her grace in handling the situation, and more so, in handling the aftermath of David's suicide. She has met the moment each and every moment that has been offered her since his passing, including meeting his brothers who came out here, and going to the crematorium to handle the logistical matters. When she arrived here this weekend, she brought with her David's tennis racket, a can of tennis balls, and his frisbee. She recalled the story I shared at the community meting about when I played tennis with him. (I also shared about the time that David and I played frisbee at a graduation party at Golden Gate Park last year). I was very moved by her offering. I will decide what to do with these items in the near future. More than likely, I will place them at my altar for the next 6 weeks, during the traditional 49-day period that is held for the person who has passed. But the tennis balls have already been put to good use. I brought one to the park with me this morning for Sadie to play with. I must say, she thoroughly enjoyed it. As she darted across the park to chase the ball, I couldn't help but think that David would have gotten a lot of pleasure out of seeing Sadie play.

It was good to talk with T about David's passing. It was good to process it just a little more, though we were both mindful about needing a break from the topic as well. There is such heaviness in the Zen Center these days. I must confess that I am glad to not be living there through this difficult time. Is that selfish of me? Or do I know my own limitations? Where does compassion fit into my life these days?

Compassion has been a challenge for me all day today. I spoke with my father on the phone, and in a matter of moments, he said something that pissed me off. It's amazing how that happens. One minute, I'm fine, the next minute, I'm kicking myself for setting myself up for the blow. That bastard, I said to myself, how quickly he can take a shot at my heart. (I've heard that our parents know just which buttons to push because they are the ones who install them).

Then, tonight, I read my few pages of Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen. She talks about compassion as this "all-powerful space that grows in zazen."

I've mentioned that I've been re-reading this book this summer. I found it when I unpacked some boxes that had been in storage this past year. The book was actually given to me by a friend back in 1995. Here is the part that I re-read today, which I underlined the very first time I read this book, years ago:

"In zazen, we see that only a fraction of ourselves is known to ourselves; and as that capacity for experiencing increases, our actions transform: they come not so much from our conditioning, our memories, but from life as it is, this very second...This is true compassion...Only to the degree that we live a life of experiencing can we possibly understand the life of another..."

Clearly, I have been living "a life of experiencing" since I first underlined these words sixteen years ago. And, clearly, I still have a long way to go before I can truly grasp this notion of compassion as basically being a visceral byproduct of sitting quietly every day, experiencing rather than behaving. Joko Beck mentions a few paragraphs earlier that we tend to judge the behavior of others rather than the experience. She writes,

"All practice is to return ourselves to pure experiencing."

I can grasp this last line. In fact, I just highlighted with a pretty pink highlighter from my awesome girlfriend's desk. The notations of the second read. Maybe in sixteen years, I'll re-read it, remember this moment, and question my frustration over my latest resentment. Maybe I'll ask myself, When will I ever get it

And maybe I'll tell myself, "Caren, there's nothing to get. Just experience it. whatever 'it' is."

Or maybe I'll be too busy highlighting another sentence, a new sentence that I could not see tonight, in a different color, at a different desk, typing another blog post, Sadie scratching her ears at my feet.

Sadie experiencing a double pine cone treat!

This is me being caught off guard by the fireworks at the A's game this weekend. Self-portrait, caught off-guard, experiencing "it"!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dharma Tennis: Week 6 in the Marketplace

One of my dharma brothers at the Zen Center committed suicide last week. We've all been shaken up by this. He struggled with depression for years. He attempted suicide two years ago, so none of us were too surprised by the news. Still, we were/are shocked by it. It is devastating news, particularly for his family whom I know loved him dearly. When I worked in the front office, I noticed that David used to receive a lot of mail from his family back in Boston. Old school mail, such as cards and letters. It was always very touching to see. I mentioned it to David one time, and he just smiled in his usual self-deprecating way. It is his family who I have been thinking mostly of, particularly his mother. How does one take this is in? How does one live with this?

It is difficult writing this post. I feel a tightness in my chest, a knot in my stomach, a grasp over my throat.

I have a lot of feelings around suicide. And a relationship to it. Suicidal ideation is one of my ex-lovers. I flirted with it for a period in my life. I get it. I get that feeling of despair and hopelessness. I get that feeling of not feeling that I deserve to be loved. I get that feeling of finding relief in leaving the planet because the suffering is so deep, so hollow, so suffocating. That sense of feeling alone in a room where you are surrounded by people who love you, that sense of feeling overwhelmed by loneliness - takes a hold of you so powerfully that it becomes alive. It becomes perversely satisfying and takes on a life of its own. It attaches itself to you in a way that the wrong lover attaches herself to you. She feels good, but you know in your heart she is not good for you. This is not the right relationship for you. But it fills that gap. It salves the pain. It numbs you just enough.

The Zen Center held a meeting on Friday night for people who knew David. We sat around a large circle in the dining room and shared our feelings, our stories, our experiences. It was very powerful and quite painful; The voices of regret, the pangs of anger, the shock of guilt. One story that stood out to me came from the Zen Center's artist-in-residence, G. She shared a story about how David told her that one time when he planned to commit suicide, he went out to the woods, and he brought a book of Walt Whitman poetry with him. He randomly opened the book, and these were the words that jumped out to him:

"O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up,"

David was apparently so taken by these words, he slammed the book shut, jumped up, and ran back home, evading death by his own hand on that day. But he did not evade it last week. He planned it thoroughly, completely, and this time, he succeeded. 

Paul Haller, the abbott, who also happens to be my teacher, gave a very moving dharma talk this past Saturday. He talked about the meeting on Friday night, and he read a line from one of his favorite poems, Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye:

"Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing."

Paul talked about how in zen there is no God, "there is no supernatural, but there is, and that is us." When he was saying that I thought to myself that he must be offending someone in this room who is hearing it, this notion that the supernatural is within us; then I realized that I was the one who was mildly jarred by his words. This sense of the supernatural within me scares me a bit, though the best way I can wrap my brain around the idea is that Paul is simply talking about the mind. Our mind is capable of so much. I guess that scares me a bit because when I have been in that dark place, my mind nearly betrayed me. I'm not suggesting that David's mind betrayed him. But the despair that took over David's mind became so vast that he was not able to see any light.

I have been re-reading Chrolette Joko Beck's book, Zen in Action recently, though this time, just a few pages at a time. This morning, I read the section titled "Love". She quotes the 17th Century Zen master Menzan Zenji,

"When, through practice, you know the reality of zazen thoroughly, the frozen blockage of emotion-thought will naturally melt away...Emotion-thought is the root of delusion, a stubborn attachment to a one-sided point of view, formed by our own conditioned perceptions."

Sadly, David was taken by this thing Menzan refers to as "emotion-thought". I get it. I've been there. It's strong and compelling, and strikingly luring.

David and I played tennis a few times last summer. It was there, on the tennis court, down at Dolores Park in the Mission, on a chilly San Francisco summer night, where I got to know him. He shared with me his struggles with the medications that he was taking, and his suicidal history. I shared with him my history. There we stood, rackets dangling from our hands, a ball bouncing intermittently, the tethered net between us, some cracks on the pavement of the court - two sarcastic zen students from Boston, expressing through gallow's humor, the struggles to simply live, the angst of life, the frustrations of being out of shape in our 40's, romanticizing what our backhand looked like when we were younger, and how alive we once felt on the tennis court. I told him he had a mean forehand, and as usual, he couldn't hear it. We stopped playing tennis because life gets busy, life moves on, but I did follow up with him a few more times for the next year, casually asking him about his meds, if they were working out okay, if he was feeling okay, and he shared only what he was willing to share. He was a crafty wit, with a sharp mind, holding closely to his chest this sweet lover who ultimately became his despair, his perverse hope. My hope is that he is at peace. And that his family will be able to someday find peace.

Life feels so hard sometimes. In Buddhism, the first Noble Truth is that in life there is suffering. We do not have to judge it, but we can accept it. We can learn how to live with it. It sounds ironic, paradoxical, and perhaps nonsensical to some people, this notion of living with the suffering. But when you think about it, how can we not suffer? If we feel joy, we must cede to the point that on the other side of the joy is sorrow. One must have the other, otherwise, we can't truly grasp all of the emotions. This is the human experience, feeling all of these feelings. And, as Paul said, this recent loss takes us to the heart of the Zen practice, facing the suffering, feeling the feelings. But it still hurts. It hurts a lot.

How do we live with this? Joko Beck, continuing on in her passage entitle "Love", writes, 

"So how can we deal with this disappointment? Always we must practice getting closer and closer to experiencing our pain, our disappointment, our shattered hopes, our broken pictures. And that experiencing is ultimately nonverbal. We must observe the thought content until it is neutral enough that we can enter the direct and nonverbal experience of the disappointment and suffering. When we experience the suffering directly, the melting of the false emotion can begin, and true compassion can emerge."

May your true compassion emerge now, David, neutral and nonverbal. For you, from you, your own supernatural.

David and Ren, Benji and Shusho, at Tassajara, 2008

Monday, July 18, 2011

Scaffolding, Redwood Trees, and Touching the Earth: Weeks 4 & 5 in the Marketplace

I've discovered a trail near my house for Sadie and I. It's a five-minute drive to get there, then once you're on the trail, it's hard to believe you're in Oakland. However, we must remember how Oakland got it's name, right? The Land of Oaks. But it's not just oak trees that thrive in Oakland. There are actual redwood trees around here. And Sadie and I have found them. Thank goodness. I always forget how important it is for me to be in nature until I've been away from it for too long.

Sadie is definitely my dharma gate these days. She is my mirror. What she needs, I need. Take today, for instance. The painters arrived to get started on the house. This will be a big undertaking for them as it is an old Victorian. They are scaffolding as I type these words. Hammers banging, scrapers scraping, the underlying murmurings of Spanish-speaking dialogue surround me in my small apartment. I am very grateful for the efforts being made to beautify my home, I said to myself as they arrived shortly after nine this morning. By one o'clock, I turned to Sadie and said, "We're going to the trail." She wagged her tail, "Yea, good, we're going to the trail, we're going to the trail, we're going to the trail..." Within moments, we were both free on the trail, surrounded by nature, only the occasional hums of cars in the distance reminding us that we do, indeed, live in urbania.

There are various paths off the beaten path, and today, I let Sadie lead us down one we had not been on. That's when we passed the redwood trees. Awesome. I mean, they're old, that's what they're known for. And this is Oakland, which is not known for it's redwood trees, let alone its forestry. Yet, here they are, just a mile off the 580 freeway, tucked away in a small forested area, breathing life into our fair city. The Native Americans believe that trees are the lungs of the earth. Some trees, more than others, have a lot to say. Some trees, more than others, have breathed a lot more for all of us. Are they sentient beings? Do they "focus" on their breath the way that I do when I am meditating? Does a tree have a conscience? Imagine where we would be without our trees.

Now that I think about it, Gotama (Buddha's name before he became enlightened) experienced enlightenment under a tree. There he sat, according to legend, after giving up his hunger fast and receiving rice milk from a peasant woman. "I will not leave this tree until I have sought enlightenment". I'm paraphrasing here, but that's the gist of it. How much life from the earth, through to the tree, was being breathed into him as he sat, night after night, fighting off all of his own private demons, until that fateful moment when he touched the earth, telling Mara, "the earth is the witness to my enlightenment." It was in that moment when Mara realized that his large army of witnesses was no match to the earth, and he disappeared, leaving the Buddha to his seat of enlightenment.

I think what I love so much about that story is that for the first time in Brahmin history, this Buddha (apparently, there were several other Buddhas before this one) did not reach out to the many gods that the Brahmins had historically worshipped to serve as his "witnesses". Rather, Gotama touched the earth, something that he was a part of. I think I'm so drawn to this story because this is the essence of Buddhism, this connection to all beings; there is a humanity aspect to this notion of spirituality; and tied into that humanity is our connection, our relationship to the earth. Karen Armstrong, a theological historian, in her biography, Buddha, describes it best:

"It not only symbolizes Gotama's rejection of Mara's sterile machismo, but makes a profound point that a Buddha does indeed belong to the world. The Dhamma is exacting, but it is not against nature. . . . The man or woman who seeks enlightenment is in tune with the fundamental structure of the universe."

So, really, when I'm walking through the woods with Sadie, taking in the breath of the trees, I am connecting to something much deeper than just a few trees, something much older than just an idea about "religion", however we choose to define religion. We're all breathing the same air, essentially, co-existing, co-arising. But moreso, on a practical note, when I'm watching the painters scraping off the paint, standing boldly on the scaffolds made of wood, twenty feet above the earth, inches from my kitchen window, I can see that they, in essence, are touching their own version of the earth. They, too, are "in tune with the fundamental structure of the universe."

Speaking of the painters, they're gone now. Day one is out of the way as the house reveals its old layers of paint, exposing itself to the elements, until the painters arrive tomorrow to continue their job, scraping and scaffolding, scraping off the old paint to make room for the new paint.

And maybe Sadie will lead me down a different path.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

From the Withered Tree...: Week 3 in the Marketplace

The trick to effective writing is having a clear mind. And, I must confess, I have not had a very clear mind lately. Which is why I have not done a lot of writing. Life has been busy during this transitional period of my life, and with that busy-ness comes cluster in the brain, lack of mindfulness, which, ultimately results in me being grumpy. This is not a good thing. More than once these past two weeks I have said to myself, "Caren, didn't you learn anything at the Zen Center this past year?" This question popped up when I found myself swearing out loud at objects that could not fit into my Uhaul truck, (if objects could swear back?!), or better yet, simply yelling at the Uhaul customer service representative because Uhaul is disorganized, incompetent, and unprofessional. (Do we really think this guy cares what I think about Uhaul? He just answered the phone).

I learned plenty at the Zen Center, and I especially have been drawn to my teacher's departing words, "establish a routine", which I have not yet done. And this is okay. The chronic impermanence I have been experiencing these past two weeks has been good for me, despite my grumpy moods. The important thing for me is to be aware of my mood. "Observe the observer" is another phrase my teacher once used. And what is the best way to observe the observer? Well, I think there are two ways. The first is through my interactions with others, and the second is when I am sitting zazen. And I will use this week's post to confess that I have not been very kind to others nor have I been sitting a lot of zazen. But now that I am more clear in that, the internal shift has taken place. This is part of my practice. Observe and shift, observe and shift. It's the staying that gets me into trouble.

Amidst the chaos of my move, I came across a book that an old friend whom I've lost touch with from New Mexico, gave to me over 15 years ago. The book is called Everyday Zen: Love and Work, by Charlotte Joko Beck. It was a bit of a small miracle to stumble across this book during my move. I have a LOT of books. (Ugh, talk about problems with attachment!). I do recall reading the book when it was given to me for my birthday,  and enjoying the read. Part of my Wayseeker's Mind talk includes how I spent about two years of my life in New Mexico where I mediated daily. But I had no sangha, no formal practice, no "core" that I took with me when I moved to L.A. Thus, when I moved to L.A., I left my limited meditation practice back in the Land of Enchantment. It took me another fifteen years to find it again. But I was so excited to find this book. To think that I was already seeking not just a practice, but specifically a zen practice that many years ago confirms and validates my current commitment to my zen practice. I am on the right path.

When I opened the pages to Everyday Zen, I saw that I had underlined some sentences. (Such a dubious little zen student). Here is what I saw underlined:

So as Zen students you have a job to do, a very important job: to bring your life out of dreamland and into the real and immense reality that it is.

And, oh my, has my life been immense lately. From the baking heat of Bakersfield where I pulled stuff out of storage to the cooling mineral springs of Mercey Hot Springs where my friend, S, and I took a 16-hour respite on our way back to Oakland, to the bombastic sounds of the fireworks in my neighborhood over the July 4th weekend, life has been loud and mobile. And as I slow down with my fine tooth comb and look closely, in slow motion, as I write these words, I feel a strong sense of gratitude for all of life's chaos and beauty in my life these days.

Another great quote in the book comes Shoyo Roku,

From the withered tree, a flower blooms.

I jokingly refer to my new kitchen as my "treehouse kitchen" because it is a renovated porch that nestles under the secure branches of two old oak trees (Oakland, the land of oaks, right?). The first morning that I actually ate breakfast in my kitchen (thank you, S, for making that tasty omelette), I was sitting at the kitchen table, alone, gazing outside. My friend, S, was in the other room (did I mention that she gets Goddess of the Year Award for helping me with my move, taking care of my dog, Sadie, these past four months, and just being a FUN person to hang out with? S, you RAWK!!!). Anyhow, as I was sitting at my table, feeling calmer than I had in days, a hawk flew down and sat on the branch of the oak tree.  The branch is about seven feet from my window. The hawk had to make some keen maneuvers to cut through the smaller branches of leaves and actually land on the branch, which is nestled away. In other words, it was an effort on the hawk's part to get there, and then to land on the open branch, and just hang out for about thirty seconds or so.

It was gorgeous. Stunning.

And a clear sign from the universe that I need to be mindful of the hawk's message, which is to observe the big picture, the expansive view, not the little things. After all, it is the little things - the 95-degree heat in Bakersfield, the Uhaul bile, the junk I saved - that grinds away at my mind, until it becomes something big, bulky, cumbersome -  a hindrance indeed. To truly let that little stuff go, I make myself available to the world. The hawk reminded me of that. It also reminded me of the ino at the Zen Center, whom I wrote about in this post recently. Shundo is definitely a hawk as he sits perched on his zafu twice a day in the zendo, overlooking the entire assembly, yet remaining focused on his own private zazen. When I saw this hawk perched on my nearby oak tree, I thought to myself that perhaps I can find a way to make my everyday surroundings my zendo. Perhaps the zendo does not need to be that room on 300 Page Street for me anymore, and that I may find my most immediate experience, my most immediate breath to be my most immediate zazen. The breath that continues to expand, so that from this withered tree, a flower blooms. A mind clears.

Over and over again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Transition Big Time: Weeks 1 and 2 in the Marketplace

I'm literally on my way out the door as I write these words. Well, not SO literally, but I am moments away from hopping in my car and heading down to southern California to, a) get my stuff out of storage, and, b) to get my dog, Sadie! I am just hours away from reuniting with her. Sigh. And then my life will change even MORE.

But I did want to send out a quick shout-out to my readership of 19+, if nothing else, to clear my mind a bit. Writing has that affect on me - on a good day, anyway. I have decided that my blog will now be dedicated to life in the marketplace. When a monk is departing from the monastery, the traditional "bon voyage" words are something to the effect of, "you are now returning to the marketplace." It will be a challenge to apply my buddhist practice in the marketplace, outside of the container of my sangha at the Zen Center, but this is life in the west for a western buddhist.

It has been two weeks since I moved out of the Zen Center. Lots has happened in those two weeks. I completed my first year at my new school where I work, and watched my seniors graduate. (I had to sit with them during the ceremony to make sure they were well-behaved. Truth be told, one of my students turned to me during the ceremony and said, "Miss, you're not gonna have a voice left tomorrow cuz you're screaming so loud!" Indeed, I was elated to see my kids receive their diplomas. And I am not ashamed to say that I screamed loudly for each and every one of them!).

Other things that have happened. Well, there's the general move itself. I am getting acquainted with my new apartment and new city, Oakland, both of which I am enjoying very much. But more on that later. Then, there's the IKEA dresser from hell story. If I'm really bored, I'll scribe more on that someday.

But the big FUN of these past two weeks was the Pride parade yesterday. It was my second time attending, and like last year, I marched with the Zen Center. It was a blast, as usual. The weather was perfect, the spirits were high, and the message was clear: San Francisco is proud of its LGBT community. (There was an extra bounce in our step this year due to the exciting news of gay marriage being legalized in New York this week!). It felt good to return to the Zen Center early Sunday morning for the traditional Pride breakfast, and to get a few hugs from dharma bros and sisters. It was a good way to ground myself after the topsy-turvy ride I've been on these past two weeks, albeit exciting, necessary, and "the next right step". The Zen Center will always be there for me. That feels good. After Pride, we met in the Buddha Hall, for a meditation, led by Tova and Larry Yang (from the East Bay Meditation Center). We went around and talked about where we practice and what we are grateful for. I shared that I am grateful for the Zen Center, for all that it has done for me. Pride, indeed, will serve as a benchmark for me every year. I hope to make it a tradition to march with the Zen Center every year and close the weekend with meditation. Tradition. There's a word I need to say out loud. It has been no secret that I  am rebuilding my life these days. I've been so busy with the 'rebuilding' aspect, that it's nice to actually think about starting new traditions in my life these days. And the beat goes on...

I will be camping this week with Sadie. It's important to re-bond with her, 24/7, plus, an excuse for me to go camping. Then, I'll acclimate her to our new life here in Oakland. More on that later. Meanwhile, enjoy the Pride pics from the ino's blog.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Last Day and Sweet Sangha: Week 57 at the Zen Center

Today was my last official day at the Zen Center. I had a fun going away party last night, an old-fashioned ice cream social. Everyone got all hopped up on sugar, including Blanche (though, I specifically purchased saltless peanuts for her). It was a very nice time. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Kathryn set her iPod up and entertained us with her singing while Daigan and Renee did a little bit of swing dancing. It was, well - sweet. I woke up this morning a stressball. I was worried that people weren't going to be available to help me move my stuff. Silly me. Heather rented a car, and fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to start moving stuff, I found Romi, the fukutan (tenzo's assistant) waiting for me by my room.

"Come on, Caren, once we get started, people will join in."

Within moments, there was a string of zen students streaming down the back stairs, carrying all of my worldly possessions. Special thanks to Issho, a guest priest from Japan, who jumped right on it the moment he saw Romi and I carrying bags. Special shout-outs also to Chris, Heather, and Juan who joined me all the way across the bay and continued that string of zen students UP to my new place. Also, many thanks to Myoki and her hubby, Tania, Jay, Rose, David, and Steven! And Cristina, a former ZC resident, who met us at my new place - just in time to join us for a burger at Barney's! Words really can't express my gratitude. Here's the note I left in the hallway:

And here's me in my new place:

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