Priest meetings have not been such a regular happening at City Center in the years since I was ordained, but they can be rewarding when they do happen.
Ahead of the priest meeting scheduled for last Friday, Daijaku had sent out some material for us to read about pastoral care; one of the pieces, more in the way of supporting material, was by Paula Arai, who I know has visited Zen Center a few times over the years, from her book Bringing Zen Home, based on studies of women in Japan.
I found the material fascinating, and will quote several pieces of it soon – not least because I have been looking for more material from women teachers – and even more if I am able to get my hands on the book itself. To begin, some words around ritual, which articulate what I was not able to the other day when I was thinking about morning service at Tassajara:
‘Rituals shape, stretch, define and redefine the identity of those who perform them. As you engage in a ritual, your consciousness changes. The power of ritual, however, is not an ability to communicate conscious knowledge, but to frame experience in such a way that it may be apprehended meaningfully. Ritual can have the impact of lived experience because it is performed by the body. In this way, people can learn about what is important through experiencing “fresh” what those before have experienced. Real life is very messy and organic, while discourse about life tends to be tidy and linear. Ritual is found somewhere in between. Performing a ritual with a long tradition can make a person feel connected.’