I spent about three hours at the Health and Beauty Fair today. The Helsinki Zen Center had a stand, and Ari, one of our sangha leaders, asked if I could mind the shop for a bit so he wouldn't have to stay there all weekend. When I asked what I was supposed to do, he said that there are a couple of zafus and zabutons there, and he thought it easiest to just sit there and do some kind of practice, and answer people's questions if they asked, which they didn't, mostly. "Just go there and be yourself." So there I was, sitting away for most of Sunday morning.
It was fun, and surprisingly good practice, too. The hubbub of the fair was not distracting; in fact, it kinda grounded me to the present and made it easier not to drift off. The knowledge that I was out in public and people would probably stare gave energy and alertness. Yet, to my surprise, I didn't feel nervous or self-conscious, and could keep my attention on the practice quite effectively. I did five roughly half-hour rounds all in all, with roughly five-minute breaks in between; I didn't use a timer, so I went over some of the time (I think the longest round was nearly 45 minutes, actually), and under some of the time.
There was the constant drone of talk in the background. People were walking in front of me; I only saw shoes and ankles. Sometimes a few stopped and picked up a leaflet with our contact info, at which point I gasshoed them and said that it is allowed to talk to me. No big conversations, just a few words exchanged, mostly. A middle-aged lady started rhapsodizing about how peaceful I looked sitting there, and then went on to explain how she couldn't possibly do that because of her job and her teenage children and this, that, and the other, and then she went away.
At one point, two clowns came by, and sat with me for a few minutes. They were there for the kids, mostly, I think. When they left, one of them bowed and said that she's with the Triratna folks. That was nice. It's a shame nobody took a picture, because I'm sure it looked very funny, with me and the clown sitting there in our little stand.
Ari eventually showed up and I helped him set up the "slow space" where he was doing a mini-introduction. Then Markus showed up too, and relieved me from zazen duty at the stand.
I've been at fairs before, but this was by far the least stressful and tiring one. I hope somebody got something from it. They certainly took all of our flyers, and Ari's lecture was, once more, jam-packed. As I was leaving, a passer-by looked in on them and said "Who's that? Must be some guru or other."
Then I walked home by the railway and took some pictures. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday.