First practice of 2009

For the first practice of 2009, I downloaded some new music. Seal’s “Soul” CD.

When I first heard Seal was going to do an album of soul covers, I was psyched. Then I read a few reviews. All of them complained that he hadn’t been creative enough in his reinterpretations — that he’d stuck to the originals closely, even down to the orchestral backgrounds.

The lackluster reviews killed my enthusiasm. Until this morning. I decided I wanted some new music. So here’s the deal: if you like Seal’s voice (I do) and you like soul, you’ll probably be pretty happy with the new CD.

What you’ll get is, in fact, covers that are quite close to the originals. Including songs like “A Change is Gonna Come,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” and one of my all time favorites, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” (I can already hear The Cop breaking out into a cheesy version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” when he reads this…)


Last night, I went to the zendo for New Year’s Eve. I actually left before the scheduled end of the program (it went on until 9 PM, which is equal to midnight for zazen-ers and Ashtangis!) because The Cop was at work so Ty had to be in his crate while I was gone.

I arrived at 2 PM, which was the beginning of work period. You know, I’ve learned a lot about work from zen practice. Yes, yes, the chop wood, carry water thing. Just do what you’re doing. The part I like best, though — and it’s similar to what happens in a Mysore room — is that you work alongside other people, but you don’t talk or interact much at all. For some reason, this really pleases me.

My first task (along with two other people) was to collect all of the pods that had fallen off the enormous… geez, I don’t know what kind of a tree it is — it’s pretty much just a big freaking POD tree. It has leaves for most of the year, but I’ll bet it produces close to as many pods as it does leaves. Big pods, about 6 inches in length. Hundreds and hundreds of them.

So we raked up pods and put them in trash bags. And then we picked through all of the vegetation that grows around the yard to get the ones that had fallen under the leafy ground cover. I did it with my bare hands, which was an exercise in mindfulness because I’m no fan of bugs, nor do I like touching slimy, decaying vegetation.

Whew! I was happy when that was done.

Next, I ironed the cloth squares that are used for napkins during temple meals. Nice. That’s the kind of job I like. Warm, in the house, with lots of different patterned material to look at. While I was there, the cat came in to supervise. Sokai, the abbott of the zendo, wandered by, looking for the cat and carrying a brush. He showed me how the cat likes to have his cheeks brushed and asked me to include it in my work assignment, once I was done with the ironing.


I brushed the cat’s cheeks until he was sick of it (and it took a good while!), then headed back outside to see what else needed doing.

“Karen, will you help over here?” Sokai asked.


I walked with him around a corner into the side yard where one of the guys was working with… gah! the compost heap.

Euw. Okay, now I’m gonna need some gloves.

I went back to the shed where all the tools are kept and started pulling gloves out of the glove box. All of them were right-handed gloves. Hmmm, a little koan. πŸ™‚

I did finally find a left and returned to the compost heap. The guy who was working on it clearly was a compost master of some sort — he was totally into it, mixing dry and wet material, and not even wearing gloves.

I was called to help because the compost area is fenced in, and there was a space between the compost and the fence which had collected leaves and pods and other miscellaneous items that needed to get thrown in with “the good stuff” and I am small enough to climb over the compost and into that space.


Compost Guy was all stirring and mixing and nodding as I threw in leafy material and what looked like a rotted potato, and a bunch of clumps of things I didn’t want to inspect too closely, along with a turnip, a celery stalk and some other things which had escaped the main pile. Mostly I just concentrated on containing my “Ick!” impulse. Since we weren’t supposed to talk, I didn’t have to think about how I could ask this guy what he sees in compost without offending him.

As I was walking back from the compost project, Sokai was washing a bird bath with the hose.

“Do you want to wash your hands?” he asked, gesturing toward the running hose.

I had been thinking more along the lines of scalding water and antibacterial soap and maybe some bleach (yes, I have some Howard Hughes issues), but I rinsed in the cold water.

After work period, we sat zazen. But zazen with a twist for the first sitting: Philosophy Monk (who I went to a few years ago for some rolfing sessions) had brought along a cold laser.

He told us a little about how it works, then said, “I’ll walk around, and instead of the keisaku, you can bow if you want laser treatment.”

So Philosophy Monk patrolled the room, applying cold laser instead of the stick.

The laser is interesting: it casts a number of laser lines along your body, and he held it so the lines ran up the spine. The feeling of the laser was one of mild internal warmth and a kind of relaxing. The thing that’s funny with having this done in the zendo with Philosophy Monk is the fact that he is the most strict monk at the zendo, and has a very gruff exterior. It’s hard to relax around him. Still, I could feel the effect of the laser. I didn’t feel inclined to relax too much, though, because I could easily imagine him suddenly loudly yelling, “Wake up!” — as he has at other retreats.

One cool thing about Philosophy Monk, though, is his sensitivity. He’s been a rolfer for 30 years, and after he put the laser on me for a while, he put it down, stepped forward, and pressed one hand on my upper back, and the other — hard — again my collar bones. Right on, Philosophy Monk! Good call! I totally needed an adjustment to my collar bones and he could see that. Very impressive.

Speaking of hands. After my paschimottanasana squish at practice yesterday (and yes, Susananda, you were right about more poses — after kapotasana, Muscle Man said, “Supta vajrasana!”), Muscle Man patted me on the back, and it felt like *exactly* the same pat VBG gives. I looked up and noticed that Muscle Man was also dressed exactly like VBG: loose tank shirt and board shorts. Evidence of a successful transmission. πŸ™‚


3 Responses

  1. Happy New Year Karen!! I love your day at the zendo (especially the cat).

    Supta vajrasana, rock on! Can you keep your toes? Could be smooth sailing till eka pada πŸ™‚

    Wishing you lots of practice breakthroughs and delightful things of all kinds this year.

  2. Happy New Year to you, too, Susan!

    Nah, I can’t keep my toes in supta vajrasana. That ought to keep me busy for a while.

    Wishing you a great 2009, too.

  3. Ah… well on the bright side, it’s a great opener for the pecs and armpits!!

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