Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Renewing Home Practice, revisited

Alas, but my exploration of Boston Zen has been put on hold for yet another month of interesting tales and tribulations to share; for this time we were forced to leave our home (I need to say yet again) because of an issue with mold. And once again, I found myself grappling with more than a few of the same demons that taunted me last time 'round. But this time a sense of grace appeared, and in an unexpected way. And so for another month, dear reader, my search for Boston Zen lands squarely back on my own figurative zafu, no further than the very tip of my own knowing.

I've not discussed it much here, but I'll give a bit of background: Last year this time, spring was unfolding with awfully high temps in southern Maryland, but other than a bit of general concern about Global Warming, I didn't lose to much sleep over it. My zen group, Open Palm Zendo, was growing, and I was enjoying the warm buzz of spring that softened all of those Saturday mornings. Yet by the early autumn, mold suddenly began growing on anything and everything. We were forced to move, and in a hurry. We lost many, many cherished things-- and, let's be real, a few things we were ready to let go of! But what resulted was a period of two months of completely diabolical, stressful exhaustion as we made a go of tediously cleaning a handful of our belongings that we could save from the house, living in someone else's home and all-the-while grieving the loss of our sense of security.

Finally by December we landed in the Boston area and quickly we worked to make amends in our tired, battle-weary little family. Quick trips to Ikea allowed us to cheaply replace much of the furniture we'd lost. A hopeful attitude replaced our sense of despair. We seemed to be on an upward swing... Until Easter Sunday, when a little heat-wave struck and my young son soon began waking up with daily nosebleeds and coughing spells. My sense of smell and my own allergy confirmed my worst fear. It was happening again!

This time, though, we were addressing things before our furniture turned green-- which meant we wouldn't have to lose so much as we did last time. But just like last time, the whole chaotic and disappointing affair got me wondering a lot about my Zen vows of tokudo, of home-leaving. Surely, it was not meant to be quite this literal! was one thought that popped to mind. And, my family did not take the vow alongside me, did they? is another. But of them all, one thought was fairly constant:

Why do we keep losing our home?

As my mind chewed and chewed on this koan, what was revealed was this: a sense guilt over lost chances and laziness in my Zen practice; a sense of split-self between parenting and family life and the "priestly" life I once knew; and perhaps most potently, a full-on storyline ravaging my mind of not deserving the okesa, the Buddha's Robe.

On that final point I finally found my tears, for a deeper mystery had been solved at last. You haven't got to deserve, as the saying goes. "How can you 'become' what you already are?" my old teacher once put it. Sewing the okesa was, for me, a practice of experiencing my life weaving into a much larger picture, a much older tradition than my little mind could conjure alone. Wearing the okesa was, for me, a practice of experiencing a putting-on of Buddha's own skin. (It is powerful and transformative to wear the clothes of those you admire, as any 6-year-old girl dressing up in mommy's finery will tell you.) Entering the Soto priesthood was, for me, the practice of allowing, at long last, a sweet exhalation into the larger being that I knew I already was.

And so I return: we didn't lose our home because we have been bad (as my old Catholic-self would think). We didn't lose our home because we have offended the mold gods (as my old pagan-self would suggest). We didn't lose our home because of all our ancient, twisted karma (as my old inner-Buddhisht --yes I meant that spelling-- would reprimand). Losing our home is happening.

Finally now we have resettled into a very sweet new home, with wonderful landlords who adore my son, in a great neighborhood and under what appears to be a brighter and more forgiving sky. Finding home is happening. And as it turns out, the okesa never really came off.

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