Last Monday I rode my bike over to the Embarcadero at noon to meet my dharma brother Zachary, who had brought his car over from North Beach with all the zafus and goza mats; the parking fairies were on our side, and he got a spot right by the open space we were planning to use.
While my initial thought had been to set up right by the Cupid’s Bow sculpture, there was a smaller expanse of grass just to the south of that, in the middle of which was a little olive tree offering a certain amount of shade, which seemed a more auspicious location, so we spread ourselves out there.
We chatted for a while, about hiking, biking and Tassajara, as we often do, and then settled into quiet sitting, a little before our scheduled start time. I didn’t feel remotely self-conscious, and I wasn’t especially worried if any of the people who said they were going to come actually showed up. It was just wonderful to sit upright and be seeing the lunch-time world go by.
There were any number of sparrows flying in and out of the olive tree, with quite the twittering; a dragonfly passing by; occasional ferries manoeuvring in and out of the docks; streetcars clanging down the Embarcadero; people on rollerblades, on skateboards, running, pedalling, doing tai chi, wearing suits, heels, running shoes, toting phones, cameras, lunches.
A Dogen quote rather stuck in my mind: ‘For practicing zen, a quiet room is suitable.’ Not always so, as the wise man said. I also remembered the more encouraging line from the Bendowa: ‘The zazen of even one person at one moment imperceptibly accords with all things.’ And, beautifully enough, there were a couple of occasions when I fully felt that all the movement of people and vehicles and birds and boats was entirely included in the zazen that was manifesting itself at that moment.
In the end we were joined by someone from Australia, who just came along and sat silently with us for more than half the session, which we ended when we heard the Ferry Building clock striking the half hour. He had been visiting various Meetups in the city during his stay, and was about to get on the plane back across the Pacific. Zachary and I packed everything back up for our much shorter journeys home, and agreed that it was so much fun we would do it all again next Monday.
This is where we were, if you would like to come along next Monday.