I think it is typical that people who practise non-residentially, and for whom attending a retreat is often the highlight of their practice year, are concerned about how to take the settled mind of retreat back out into the busier world. This week I realised that this is pretty much the first time in my years of practice that I have needed to navigate that transition myself – though I often feel the same way about coming back from a week of teaching at Tassajara, where things are so slow and focused.
A friend of mine who I was emailing with last week laughed when I said that I was still feeling a bit slow, since I had included a list of all the things I had done over the weekend after the retreat – running; riding my bike a couple of times; a regular Roaming Zen (perhaps my largest group yet on a lovely loop from Mountain Lake to Lobos Creek, Baker Beach, Inspiration Point, through the woods past the National Cemetery and Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire); and the first iteration of the Airbnb version of the roam, which I have been working to get off the ground for a few months, and which has some bookings for the weeks before I go to England.
I followed those up on Monday by joining Zachary at the Embarcadero for the lunch-time open-air sitting, which again will be happening through September (with the exception of Labor Day), and in the afternoon I was at the county jail for a meditation session.
Despite all these activities, it did feel that my logistical brain took a few days to get up to speed; going back to my day job felt like a bit of a struggle, and since I have not been sleeping as much as usual for a variety of reasons, I felt physically rather tired through most of the above – especially the lunch-time sitting, even though I had assumed the hours spent sitting during the retreat would have left me feeling at ease for this hour of zazen. And yet there was a part of me that still felt wonderfully open and relaxed about the world, even as the news continues to be fairly dreadful.
On Friday I had another double bill of teaching: a first session at a start-up accelerator where one of my students is getting his company off the ground – it was a very new building in Mission Bay, and a nice group of people, but I would rather have done the session in the garden than in the conference room with noisy air-conditioning but no fresh air; at least I got to spend the rest of the afternoon outside, with another Airbnb roam.
On Saturday I went to Zen Center to offer the zazen instruction, and stayed to hear Tenshin Roshi speak. As it happens, I have been listening to him a lot recently, as I have been editing videos of his talks, some of which should make their way online soon. I wasn’t sure about staying, but there was something about his focused presence as he talked about face-to-face transmission that kept me in the hallway. It was great to be in the building, seeing Zen Center’s most senior teacher addressing the crowd – I saw some old faces who do not come around so often, as well as the new faces of the latest guest students, and those who might eventually come to be leaders at Zen Center. At the same time, I was enjoying the pigeons nonchalantly bathing in the fountain in the courtyard, and the traffic passing by out on Page St.
After I left, I discovered that the bright, clear morning had turned into one of those wonderful eighty-degree days in San Francisco, with deep blue skies and no wind. It was easy to feel expansive and loving out in the sunshine. The good weather continued through Sunday, when I had another Airbnb roam with a couple of very enthusiastic women from Japan, with whom it was especially fun to share some of my favourite quiet corners of the city.
I have felt very happy and lucky to be able to teach on consecutive days like this, and also to get to spend so much time out in the less built-up areas of the city. As Tenshin Roshi observed, face-to-face transmission is not just from person to person, but also between people and objects; when we can be open, in the way that has coming up for me at times these past few days, we can see how each and every thing expresses the unfolding of true reality in each moment.
This is a view like the one I had on Saturday, from the hallway into the Buddha Hall
I didn’t find any archive pictures of pigeons in the fountain, but one time we were visited by an osprey – I think it had a nest over the road in the park.