Friday, December 17, 2010

Rohatsu 2010, part 5 of 4: Great Guys

Great Guys

After the sesshin ended at about 6pm on Monday evening, after I chatted a bit with a few of the participants, most notably the guy who I had been sitting next to all day for the last five days, I went out with a local friend of mine.  We ate in the Mall of America, and walking though there was an exercise in managing sensory stimulation (the Hooters was particularly compelling) after sitting sesshin for five days, let me tell you.  After a lovely dinner and visit with my friend I came home and hit the hay.

I got up the next morning and went to the regular zazen session, and then I went back over to the house next door where I stayed and packed up.  One of the senior teachers and I had discussed getting together to talk on this morning back before the sesshin started, so we discussed following through with that plan.  Everyone was concerned with helping me get to the airport, but everyone was too busy to drive themselves.  They were all concerned that I'd be spending too much money on a taxi.

Ha!  I'm a New Yorker.  I am accustomed to giving money to cab drivers, believe me.  I wasn't worried about it.

Apparently, behind the scenes there was some discussion and investigation about how to get me to the airport without enriching a taxi company.  It was discovered that one of the other students, the gentleman who served as the work leader, was planning to pick someone up at the airport 30 minutes after I needed to be there.  He was asked, and he kindly offered to take me to the airport.

Beyond that, he was also available to join the Senior Teacher and I for what had now turned into breakfast.  Cool!  We went to a lovely cafe in the neighborhood and had a most unusual conversation!  We talked about zen!  What was unusual about it is that for the first time I can remember I was discussing zen with people, not explaining it to them.  That was incredibly awesome.

Usually when I talk to people about zen I am telling them what it is, or even more typically what it *isn't.*  It was very nice to just discuss what I had been reading/doing/thinking with some people who know what this is all about, had helpful things to say, and could turn me on to some things I didn't know about.  That was really, really fun.

Then, in the car ride back I was telling some stories and I found out that the senior teacher had actually *been* part of a famous all-night sesshin that Dainin Katagiri conducted, and that we had other rather notorious zen acquaintances in common.  That is, this teacher was very well-connected in the line of American teachers I've been studying in.  People I revered and knew only by reputation he was friends with, had studied with, and knew intimately.

Very cool.

Then, the student who was driving me to the airport and I dropped off the senior teacher, said our goodbyes, I picked up a few odds and ends from the zendo bookstore, and we headed off.  He wanted to stop at a record store first, which was fine with me.

On the way, unknown to him beforehand, he fulfilled a long-time ambition of mine.  He took me by the Minnesota Zen Center, the one founded and established by Dainin Katagiri, my teacher's teacher.  He also told me that Robert Pirsig had funded the endeavor, something I did not heretofore know.  I was dumbstruck by just sitting out in front of it.  I had wanted to make this visit for many, many years. He just whizzed by on the way to the record store. That was awesome.

The record store was awesome.  I walked over to the Japanese section and found two albums I had been looking for over a year.  Amazingly, after searching for them again and again in New York City, in Minneapolis I went over and walked right up to them.  That was a shock, but even better, they were used copies and were CHEAP!

We got to the airport in plenty of time.  We exchanged contact info and said our good byes.  Wow, that was a Great Morning among Great Guys!

I walked through security easily at the airport.  No lines, no pornoscan, no pat-down.  That was a first, too.  I had a nice lunch at a local business in the airport called French Meadow, it was really good, then I went to the gate.

At the gate I sat down in the midst of a group of eight African-American gentleman in their 30s and 40s, all traveling together, at first I thought they were either a band, or some kind of athletic team.  It didn't take long for me to learn that they were indulging themselves in a tradition of attending a professional football game together this last weekend.  They do it annually, going to a different stadium in a different city every year.  This year it was Minneapolis, to see the Giants play the Vikings.

As it turns out, they missed their game because of the snow storm I discussed in Great Snow.  The roof of the stadium had fallen in and the game was moved to Detroit.  They were endeavoring to witness Brett Favre's last game, but they ended up watching it on TV with everyone else.

They were in good humor though, and they welcomed me into their conversation while we waited on the plane. we had a spirited discussion about college basketball, a topic upon which I have some expert knowledge, and I really really enjoyed their company.  It occurred to me that just a few years ago I would have been very wary of such a group, probably not speaking to them, or even sitting amongst them.  Not out of fear, but because I would have felt that they didn't want me around.

Instead, it felt like being around old friends.  I wonder what influence my zen practice has on my ability to settle into spontaneously joyous activities like my breakfast, and this conversation at the airport.  I can't make a specific intellectual connection, but they certainly feel connected.

All in all, it was a Great trip to Minneapolis, and I got to end it among Great Guys.