Going Places

Often when I give zazen instruction, I end up saying something about airports. The gist of this is that we start by meditating on a cushion, then we include walking meditation, and circle out so that we can eventually find the feeling of zazen in our work and in other parts of our lives. Then we can sit and act peacefully wherever we are.

Airports typify a modern kind of purgatory: being somewhere you don’t especially want to be, surrounded by people you haven’t chosen to be around, and waiting to get into a tiny metal tube that hopefully won’t kill you, but will leave you feeling dehydrated, stressed and tired. Typically the flights I take are international, so, assuming that the security line has not been its own kind of hell realm (looking at you, JFK, though SFO can be daunting as well), I have a couple of hours to kill. Since I am about to spend up to ten hours in a narrow seat, I usually find I don’t want to sit down at the gate, even if most people take that option.
What better place or time to do some meditation? Instead of feeling like you are just in a transitional space, and that you are just waiting to be somewhere else, why not be fully present where you are? It works for me every time – well, perhaps not at JFK, but I was also feeling pretty sick that day…

Partly this post was prompted by a conversation with a friend back in England. We had been musing on my sense of home (in case you haven’t picked this up yet, that usually means England, and especially Cornwall), their response was ‘I have my own moments of intense restlessness and find I’m most at home in an airport departure lounge.’ Then I came across this snippet of dialogue, from perhaps the first shosan  ceremony at Tassajara, which of course I forwarded.

‘Student: Dōchō-rōshi, I have two questions.  Where is home?  What is true strength?

Suzuki-rōshi: When you start wandering about there is no home, there is no strength.  But if you find your home in this moment at this place, you have enough strength to practice our way.  And home is right here.’

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Waiting at Heathrow for the plane back, a couple of weeks ago.

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SFO has at least some air of tranquility – a shot from a few years ago.

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