Well, can you believe it? The Guest House has internet. So my pre-posts can now be posts.
I arrived yesterday afternoon, abuzz after zipping in from NY, unpacking, packing, and flying over the Golden Gate Bridge while talking to my mom on the phone. Arrived 10 mins late, only to find that time is a bit fluid here, the Intro to Zazen class had just begun.
Thus began my re-entry into the world of zendos, zafus, Zazen, and zen. The little mat that goes under the zafu also starts with z although I can’t remember it now…
Green Gulch Farm is a gem, an absolutely stunning property below Highway 1 and tucked into a valley just behind the coastal hills. The place could not be more green, could not have more constant birdsong, could not be any closer to the city while feeling worlds away from the city. The buildings are beautiful in their simplicity, with stairways and lit pathways forming a small labyrinthine village. The people in the office welcomed me and I could palpably feel that their pace was about one-third of my own.
Intro to Zazen was brief and covered the important “forms” to follow in formal meditation practice: step through the doorway with a certain foot, take two steps in and bow to the Buddha, bow to your zafu, turn clockwise and bow to the room, sit on the zafu without touching the edge where the monks eat, spin clockwise and get into position. It seems religious but everything has a function to help you be mindful, grateful, present.
Then we started with yoga class which was perfect for my weary jet-lagged body which has not really done yoga in years since I hurt my back years ago. We did resting poses, opened up our hips, almost always were laying down with blankets next to the wood-burning stove.
There are 17 of us. Mostly people seemingly my age, some a bit older, thoughtful, friendly. We ate dinner in the dining hall–nuns carried out giant dishes of food with brown rice, a tomato vegetable stew, and roasted zucchini. We chitchatted and got to know each other a bit, lovely people.
After dinner we did an icebreaker and I realize how many people are overly stressed at work, struggle to maintain a meditation practice, want more in life than a hamster wheel. The teacher had us invite people into the room who are not really here, people for whom we will practice. I thought of many of you.
I went to bed at 9:00 and it was perfectly quiet even though there are many people here.
Alarm at 4:30 (thank goodness I’m on east coast time) and I dressed in many layers to head to Zazen in the meditation hall. I stepped outside in the dark and looked around to get my bearings and there was the full moon like a spotlight in the night sky, it absolutely took my breath away.
I didn’t need my headlamp. Walked in, a nun showed me to my zafu, whether or not I did all the steps right I don’t think anyone noticed, and I settled in. Occasionally there was a gong or a bell. There was a symphony of birdsong.
I felt wonderful and proud and grateful for about twenty minutes and eventually my body started hating it and going into distress mode and I repositioned and breathed and knew I would survive. (I’m going to a posture clinic in 15 mins which will help.)
I survived. Afterward, rather than walking meditation followed by a second Zazen, I went back the Guest House for delicious bread with peanut butter and jam and chamomile tea and then headed out on a walk. The moon now hung pale pink in the lightening blue sky. I crunched down the gravel path alone, through the gorgeous farm with its colorful rows of flowers and leafy greens, saw quail, rabbit, a red-winged blackbird, some horses, breathed the cool air. I emerged at Muir Beach as the sun came over the hills, heading over to the little house I rented with my family two Thanksgivings ago, the first time I officially told my family of my plans to become a single mom.
Facing the sun on the way back, I walked a bit faster to make it in time for breakfast. Everything sparkled in the morning dew. I ran into F, one of my favorite people so far, searching for a very noisy woodpecker he could not see. We strolled in to breakfast: hot rice cream cereal, tofu sweet potato something or other, hard boiled eggs, and hot apple juice.
Over breakfast, I connected with L who has a beautiful Hawaiian name, who is a freelance writer. She’s actually here on assignment. I got so inspired talking to her. Let’s be honest, this is my passion. I just have to start navigating from here to there, and write more, and write all kinds of new topics and formats and just dig in. When we were done she said she’d be glad to talk to me more about it later and I came back here to write this.
From here. With peppermint tea. xo