Sunday, September 19, 2010
Cyclone Closing, Helsinki, today.
The trouble with a really good zazenkai is that it makes zazenkais that aren't as good feel like they kinda suck. Today's wasn't as good as my Zen Weekend a couple of weeks ago.
Which isn't to say that it was a waste of time or anything. I just had a lot of stuff churning around, and spent most of the time spinning donuts, and didn't manage to get as far or as deep as I've been before. Then again, some of that stuff was pretty interesting (might be at least a blog post or two in them), so that didn't altogether go to waste.
But I did end up practicing returning my attention to the practice a lot more than I practiced holding it there, and I didn't ever get past that point.
I wore my Jedi robe today. It's light cotton fabric dyed dark brown, and looks sort of like a bathrobe, only with flappy sleeves. There's also a black sash thing called an obi. In our tradition, it doesn't really mean anything in particular; one of our instructors, Ari, calls it a Zen track suit.
I bought mine nearly a year ago, because I thought it looked cool, and also because I appreciate the esthetics of Zen ceremony, to which those robes contribute. I quickly found out that while it is officially nothing more special than a Zen track suit, we people tend to pin all kinds of stuff on it, and after the retreat last March, I stopped wearing it.
Also last spring, there was some discussion in the sangha about what kind of policy there should be regarding those robes. That the discussion even happened shows that it is something that's not quite a track suit. Eventually there was an official proclamation that it is now permissible to use a rakusu without a robe, that instructors and zendo leaders and such are no longer required to wear them, but that they are now required for everybody on sesshins, for which loan robes will be provided.
The upshot was that lots of people stopped wearing them.
For some reason, I had been thinking a lot about that robe lately, fretting about whether I should start wearing it again or not. So I figured I might as well try again what it felt like.
The obi is nice. It sort of naturally focuses the attention on the hara, and makes breathing easier.
The robe is rather noisy. It imposes a little bit of additional discipline on sitting, since even small movements make a sound.
I figure that's good.
The other side of the equation is all the stuff we pin on it. When wearing it, I feel like people are looking at me wearing it, and I'm not sure how well I wear it. I think people are thinking "Who does that n00b think he is, wearing that robe?" Or, worse, I think they may be thinking that I know something I don't, because I wear a Jedi robe. (If someone comes at me with a lightsaber, I'm really screwed.) I think that more since there are fewer people wearing them now.
The fabric is light, but the robe does weigh something.
I think I'll keep wearing it for a bit though. If it keeps feeling weird, I'll stop and donate it to Zengården for use on sesshins.
I think it'd be nice if more people started wearing them again; I think seeing them at zazen does lend it a dignity and beauty, and I would like to contribute to that.