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"!


  1. I love that -- just experience it. Perfect.

    As I type this, I see the pink highlighter. I have a different relationship with it now :-)

  2. I wanna meet this GF!!!!! And, since I happen to think MY GF is the best GF EVER, I might be forced to arm wrestle you for the title. I also wanna meet Sadie!