Alternative Scenarios

The past two Sundays in the Bay Area have been marked by strong winds.

On the first of these Sundays, having seen the forecast, I knew I would not be comfortable riding over the bridge. So I headed south, and positively flew down Great Highway, which had been closed again for a race, with the tail wind. Of course, on the way back up from the Peninsula, as I remember from the very first time I road up Camino Real, heading into the teeth of a wind funneling down between the hills is no fun. I did my best this time around by heading for the bay shore, more in the lee of San Bruno Mountain, and it was not so grim.

Our Embarcadero sit the next day was challenging for everybody, with the north wind cutting through many layers of clothes, unmitigated by the sunshine. I was glad to ride home vigourously and get somewhere sheltered.

Last weekend I was up at Wilbur. The wind overnight on Saturday had kept the temperatures above freezing, but again there was little warmth in the sun. Sitting on the yoga deck, the plastic sheeting rippled and a part of the frame was banging. Back in the city, the wind had brought warm air, so I did the Monday sit in a t-shirt and felt pretty toasty. Afterwards, I did a meditation in a meeting room which always has noisy air-conditioning. In my closing observations I returned to words I had used at Wilbur on Sunday: the mind is always apt to create alternative scenarios. Wouldn’t it be better if it were ten degrees warmer or not as windy? Or, in the latter case, wouldn’t it be nicer to sit outside in the warm sun? And along with that, how we impose our ideas on the circumstances of the moment: the wind is too disturbing; the air-conditioner is too noisy. Instead of pushing things away, or shutting them out, can we just let conditions be as they are?

One of the participants in the latter session asked how we can do that. Staying engaged and curious, a continuous opening rather than closing, was the response I came up with. I might need to bring these stories to another session I am doing this week, as part of a team-building off-site, where I have been told that harmonising the group is the priority.

I had had a preliminary engagement with this topic on Saturday morning, when it had been clear and frosty at Wilbur (I would say I left the city under clear skies, but unlike at Wilbur, there was the typical low-hanging brown haze visible around the bay as I drove up). I was setting up the cushions, and the cold of the floor of the deck reminded me of all the hours on the engawa – the walkway around the zendo – at Tassajara, whether I was playing one of the instruments, or waiting as part of an oryoki serving crew on biting winter mornings. That was really a practice of making the unwanted wanted (I forgot that I had brought this up in connection with Wilbur): this was the reality of being at Tassajara (just as the cold deck was the reality of being at Wilbur on Saturday), so how are you going to meet it?

DSCF2193.jpgReally clear skies on the way into Wilbur on Friday afternoon.


DSCF2251.jpgI enjoyed spending time with Frank on Friday afternoon, and, as a cat should, he was enjoying the late sunshine.

DSCF2287.jpgThe full moon setting on Sunday morning.

DSCF2267.jpgThe bathhouse was steaming away in the freezing temperatures on Saturday morning.

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