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Possible snow tonight may complicate things for people getting to a meditation retreat this weekend at the Zen center:

This evening at 6:30 p.m. I'm heading over to the Zen center for Thursday evening group meditation, then I'm planning to stay overnight at the Zen center through the whole retreat. So I'll be okay. But I'm not so sure about the teachers and other students being able to get there tomorrow morning.

See, the Zen center is near where I live, so I looked up the forecast according to the weather station nearest to this part of Seattle — Fairview Christian School, in case anyone is interested; I access them over an app called WeatherBug — and it said that it'll be getting down to freezing by 7 p.m., but the hourly forecast doesn't predict snow till after 10:00 p.m., after which, it's 40% likely to snow during that hour, then 80% likely to snow between 11:00 p.m. and midnight, and after that there's an even chance of snow till 1:00 a.m., followed by several hours of no precipitation at all.

The problem is, it's going to be at or below freezing till something like 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, by which time, it may already have started snowing again. And the Zen center is on a steep hill. Also, there's no sun in the forecast to help melt any snow, for the little help that might offer for sun-facing streets, or at least warm the air up more to help melt it off.

So I suspect my partner and probably most of the sangha who'd signed up for this retreat won't be able to attend for the morning if not the entire day. Which would suck for my partner, since I think he's only signed up for Friday (not totally sure about this).

Anyway, I'll be taking lots of warm comfy 💜silk💖 to bundle up in overnight. And iIrc, at the last retreat when we had that big storm scare — the storm that never showed (well, here at least; apparently Vancouver BC got the brunt of it instead of us) — everyone except people who were staying overnight at the Zen center left in the early afternoon to avoid being out on the road in case of falling trees and branches, and it ended up being very peaceful with just the few of us who were there.

So it could be worse.
vladdraculea: Rainbow Autistic Pride lemniscate over the black, grey, white, and purple stripes of the Asexuality Pride flag (Default)
There's not much going on in my Zen learning and spiritual development at the moment, but I thought I'd update everyone on what little there is, since it seems I haven't posted in quite a while.

This is partly to do with Seattle's recent heat wave, which finally broke over Thursday night. We had 15 days straight of heat over 80°F/27°C, which given my dysautonomia and that practically nobody in Seattle has AC, was miserable for me. My executive function took a major hit during that time and I couldn't keep track of much at all, and it was as if Zen wasn't even part of my life: I couldn't maintain attention for long enough to meditate for more than a breath or two before completely forgetting that I was meant to be in meditation, and I'd be off to do something else instead, not realizing till several minutes-to-a-few-hours later that I'd been in the middle of meditating and gotten distracted with something and never remembered to go back to it. *sigh*

I would love to say that given the much lower temperatures, I've been able, finally, to return to regular meditation, but alas, I find myself so sleepy — probably because I never got really good sleep over the two weeks of excessive heat — that when I sit down to meditate, I end up just falling asleep, which is not much of an improvement over getting distracted.

My partner and I mean to attend group meditation at the Zen center tomorrow morning, so if my tummy lets me get away with it, I may try ingesting some cold cocoa and a chocolate-coffee brownie for breakfast to help me stay awake.

Adventures in Zen 1

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 02:37 pm
vladdraculea: Rainbow Autistic Pride lemniscate over the black, grey, white, and purple stripes of the Asexuality Pride flag (Default)
I am dedicating this series of posts — Adventures in Zen — to my teachers Anita Feng, JDPSN and Eric Nord, JDPSN, of the Blue Heron Zen Center in Seattle.

Last night, my bff Eric and I attended our first retreat-related dharma talk at BHZC. Due to not seeing that there was to be a retreat on the schedule and thus not knowing about it till two nights ago, my Eric and I both already had time commitments on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, this weekend, so we were only able to attend last night's sit and dharma talk. [We'd hoped to make it to this evening's sit and dharma talk, but something came up just now and my Eric won't be able to make it.]

Friday evening's talk was mainly about the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, and Aimlessness.

While I have long had a strong association of Emptiness with this thing that happens with my qi after it opens up in my heart and then my throat and solar plexus followed by my abdomen and third eye and finally my crown and root, where I am eventually no longer attached to my body but still reside fully in it and experience all sensory input to it with wakeful detachment, I had not considered that of course this emptiness I experience can and does render the sense of “me” as expansive, unbounded, not limited to this body, but inclusive of All — or as many of my online and activist friends might say inclusive of “all the things” — people, plants, animals, rocks, mountains, the oceans and, well, all the things. :D (big grin)

I wish I could remember exactly what Eric Nord, our teacher last night, said but Emptiness seems to have something to do not only with the above physical experience I have while meditating, reading about Zen (and even while writing this blog post), and sometimes while chanting, he also said it had something to do with the sangha — or perhaps any group of people one belongs to? — a sense of the greater “I” rather than the little “I”? That “I” is like Omega (but without the angst) at the end of time including all beings? I shall have to do more reading/listening on this subject.

I googled the Three Doors of Liberation, where I found a long talk by Thich Nhat Hanh that touches on the subject of the Three Doors of Liberation. I haven't listened to it yet, but will over the next few days.

The concept of Signlessness was interesting to me because it seems to be about how, despite a thing's form, it is made of the same underlying substance as any other thing. This is a more ancient concept than that of electrons, protons, and neutrons which make up all the atoms in the Universe, and in a way goes beyond present physics understanding, since it alludes to something even more fundamental than leptons, quarks, and neutrinos, something out of which all these elementary particles are made.

Our teacher talked about aging in this context: the common laments people in our society utter at such things as the loss of hair, the appearance of new wrinkles and so forth, and how the underlying person whose body ages and changes with time, that person is still the same person. This got me to thinking about being trans and how my body does not look like “me”, or the concept I have of myself, my ideal visage and ideal set of abilities. Further, I thought about how I have known for many years that I am the same person now as I was when I was three in this incarnation, yet I am taller, have a different set of teeth, have scars, have somewhat darker hair, etc. But I am still me.

Of course, this body's appearance and set of physical, cognitive, and sensory limitations have chafed me constantly since my earliest memories in the way that transgender people's bodies often do (body dysphoria), but I have learned to accept — to stop struggling against — that form of suffering and make peace with the body I have at this time and place in my multi-incarnational life. This makes sense: learning to accept whatever vessel happens to hold me at any point in time will serve me well into illness and death and into the emotional pitfalls of growing up in a new incarnation. Again, I am sure I shall have much more to learn about Signlessness over time.

And the last, Aimlessness, seems to be about becoming detached from feelings of having to be somewhere or do something in life in order to feel like one has “arrived”. I think this is something I am right in the middle of learning: I've spent the past two years reading blog posts, articles, and conversations all on the subject of the value of Disabled lives. That we are just as human and just as possessing of agency and mind as any (temporarily) abled person and we have just as much right to exist in this world as anyone else, regardless of whether or how well we can produce things and regardless of how much assistance we may need to accomplish day-to-day tasks (what are sometimes called “activities of daily living” or ADLs). And if our disabilities get in the way of having a career or even of obtaining an education, it is important to learn to see ourselves as valuable people even without such things.

Of course, this is distinct from learning to live with the feelings of missing activities one would very much enjoy doing, but can't or can't anymore. Knowing there is no “should” about having accomplishments (Aimlessness) and knowing there is no loss of identity in not having accomplished certain things/having the ability to accomplish things (Signlessness) are distinct from the grieving process associated with not being able to do something you love, that you long to do.

I'm sure there must be a Buddhist concept I'll eventually learn about regarding the grieving process around not being able to live the kind of life one longs to live. I've just been muddling along sometimes nursing a great sadness, sometimes mild anger, and sometimes acceptance; I've mostly managed to stop bargaining and stop being in denial about the loss of anything resembling my ideal life, but the sadness and occasional anger still haunt me when I'm not filled with that heart-centered qi feeling I described at the beginning of this blog.

Our teacher also briefly discussed the Middle Way, the Buddhist concept of non-duality or of living mainly in the in-between, moderation, neither all Yin nor all Yang. He mentioned this in the context of the “third cure” from the title of a book by Peter Coyote which is a reference to a song lyric about a choice between two cures — one a very materialist and capitalist “cure” represented by “railroad gin” and the other a loving but somewhat nihilistic and escapist “cure” represented by “Texas medicine” (taken to be something like peyote). That is, that there is another way, not that of surrendering to the existing power structures in this world and not that of spending as much time away from this world as possible, but a way to find happiness in this world, being both present and just in ones actions.
vladdraculea: Rainbow Autistic Pride lemniscate over the black, grey, white, and purple stripes of the Asexuality Pride flag (Default)
On Sunday, my bff and I went to an intro to Zen workshop where my bff learned the basics and I had a refresher on customs, some of which were new to me since this is Korean based, rather than Japanese based. But it's philosophically essentially the same. My bff enjoyed it, so we'll start attending once a week for a while and see how that goes. Unfortunately, due to scheduling problems, cuddling in ♡silk♡ will have to be only once a week from now on, rather than twice a week. I'll miss the extra cuddles, but I think this is important for both of us to do, so I'm content with the arrangement.

Alas, the Zen Center has us dawn these robes on top of our regular clothes, and I just know as the warmer weather comes along, I'm going to completely melt under them unless I arrive in only a tank top and bike shorts and leave my socks in my shoes (rather than walk around the center in my socks). But we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Meanwhile, I have a list of books to check out — I hope at least a few of them are in audiobook format — and my bff and I have committed to doing daily meditations on our own during the week between our once-a-week treks to the ZC.

April 18, 2015 ETA: I am retroactively dedicating this blog post to Steven Allen, JDPSN, who was my bff's and my teacher at the Introduction to Zen Practice we attended the day before I wrote the above.


vladdraculea: Rainbow Autistic Pride lemniscate over the black, grey, white, and purple stripes of the Asexuality Pride flag (Default)
Vlad Drăculea

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