It is good not to have expectation about things, well, not too high expectations, especially things you can not control. Also a good perspective is a good thing to have. I say, the keys to life are timing, perspective and who you know any one of them gives the holder a happy life. Go ahead, match it to anything…zen
The adventure began on Sat. morning. It was a good example of life, and the flow of things, yin within yang, interdependence all that. I started my part of the day going to the Emeryville marine Flea market. I was also ready somewhat disappointed that a guy I had been talking to about an anchor for months could not find room for it in his truck. I let it go and moved on, to find another.
I was hoping to find one at the flea market today along with a part I needed for my Mainsheet controls on the boat. I did not check the starting time of the event and arrived almost two hours early DOH! Starting at 10 am, I never seen that before. I found this out after hanging out and seeing little signs of a sale. So I asked. While in the process of hanging out, watching folks setup. A guy comes up just off to my rear side vision. He has a wheelbarrow full of anchors. I go over to check things out. I spot the very Anchor I wanted from the other guy, (who was setup just across from where we were standing) perfect. I ask, how much?, he says make me an offer I have no idea what it is worth… Hmm I think, I want a good price, I also need to be fair. I offer 15.00 below what the other guy wanted. Done he says! Sweet!
After I acquire another small item, I head home to pack. We are together and ready to go without too much hassle. After all it is just over night. So let me go over the plan.
We land about 6:00, get a car and head over to dinner with the master at 7:00 p.m. which is 30 min from the airport. Then we head over to see my brother after dinner which ends at 8:30, next a stop at a friend who just got out of the hospital. From there back to the hotel around 11:00 p.m. Up early the next morning to pickup my Cuz. and another zendude at the airport, before heading over to the day retreat with the master. That was the plan and this should be a clue that when I say that was the plan, the universe had other plans…
We arrived to the airport on time, with easy access to the loading gate through the checkpoints. Once there things went downhill. First the flight was delayed 15 min.
Ok, no biggie, Once we got on the plane, something is wrong another delay. Then leave the gate, doh, something is still wrong,
It has to do with some lights we are told. Finally we are on the run way, and we stop again, this time told, delay 10 min, then it was back to the gate for a mechanic. We finally take off at 6:00pm one hour late.
We arrive in Ontario @ 7:00. Barley enough time, the diner had started. We got a car and made it to the restaurant by 7:30… We find, NO ONE there we know or knew us or the party we are looking for. We are told, perhaps that it was another place, which had almost the same name, but was across town… I find out later another restaurant was chosen.
I let it go as a lost effort. It is now 8:00 p.m. Rather than go visiting, I take the evening so far as a sign, I feel I should just bag the evening and find the hotel then decide. I was a bit concerned about where the location was, it was suppose to be near the airport by a few minutes, but I saw no signs of hotel on our way to the freeway. So we drive back to the airport area, I call for directions. I get some rough idea we are on the wrong side of from where we want to be. I should go look for this street and follow that to blah blah. Ok we drive, and drive, and look and look. We call again. More directions to a street I can not find. Oh did a say we have a map as well with none of the street on it working like we are told, if they are even there on the map!! I stop and ask a local, I get pointed in the right direction, I drive, and locate one street name, but nothing of the intersection. I stop again in a gas station, the lady, makes the call herself and writes down the directions. Thank God for folks like that, we finally got to the hotel at 11:00 p.m.. So much for any other traveling. The Force did not want us out and about visiting. We called it a night after locating some food.
Sunday with the Master.
We needed an early start in the morning…it is not everyday one meets a spiritual leader…and a deputy Abbot of Shaolin Temple.
We are at the hotel desk the next morning, Sunday, checking out. I ask the person behind the desk. Is the airport that way? and point let’s say north. She says, err ummm, I’m not sure.
We check the map, she looks up something. she points the other direction, south, I check the map hmmmm ok hmmm…
We are heading to the airport to pickup my Cuz and another person. We go about 4 blocks I feel something is not right, Lady Z also checking the map says something is not right with the direction. What kind of workers are these who can not give directions to and from the airport?! I ask a cop on a bike about the airport. He points north, ( the other way ) and gives me directions. We are there in 10 min. !!! Yeaa CHP!!! Arigato!!!
We make it to the airport, pickup my Cuz, pickup boarding passes for the trip home, pickup the other dude from Texas and we are off to see the Master. That went smooth, as did the trip to the Meditation center. We arrived in plenty of time for a few introductions and good to see you again happy faces and get settled into a seating spot before things start.
We were in the third row. sitting on foam mats. Yuk!, These are not comfortable and we are not suppose to bring cushions. For some reason this group does not use cushions, only if one really needs it, they prefer none. However it is ok to sit in a chair if you need. When at home sitting I use a traditional Japanese style cushion, when I practice in Fremont I use a smaller cushion, I find it makes a difference when doing long sessions. MAybe the floor things is par tof the training.
Anyway, the morning lecture was to be two hours. It was going to be a long sit, being still, respectful and sitting correctly, there was going to be some suffering, training time. Very much like Kung Fu training, learning to go beyond the discomfort… pain. (We most of us were suffering at the first hour. We did get a break. Even my senior said his legs hurt. We could not tell !!)
We get a few announcements from a couple of seniors, then told to center ourselves quietly and wait. We were sitting for 15 min or so before the master arrives. The Shifu arrived just about 10:00.
He walked up with a couple of aids. He looked young for the age I thought he was. Small in stature, calm in energy and face. I was curious about his energy, his chi, I can not say that I was covered with this aura of goodness and mercy, he did however feel like he is a good person a peaceful person. I got no sense of a power figure from him. Nor did I get a car salesman vibe, or the cult leader vibe from him or the others. I was pleased. Shifu spoke in a soft voice. Softer than I expected after listening to the DVD. He spoke with a soft convection. There were no robes or other formal ceremonial trappings. He wore a regular Chinese style dress jacket, with a gold Chain necklace with a small shrine/temple image with a Jade Buddha inside. I also had on my Gold chain with a Chinese Jade, it is of Fu Dogs ( Lion Dogs, the temple guards). I felt a connection 🙂
Now as i post this, something comes to mind. He is wearing a jade temple, I am wearing jade temple guards… whoa…is it a sign… is it real…or memorix? * incert twilight zone music track here*
The first of his lecture was about Ch’an, the nature of Ch’an , why we need it. For balance of body, mind and spirit. It was also about the non-religious heart of Zen (ch’an) how Ch’an helps enhance whatever your faith. Ch’an is about the heart of man, the heart of nature, the heart of the universe. Our connection with all that was & is before we came up with religion. Ch’an is older than religion. He spoke of how Buddhist terms are used to describe Ch’an but it is not only Buddhist idea, or path. It is Universal in nature without the limits of names and labels. Which is why it is pushed to live it, experience it from practice not by reading books, or chanting, those are paths, ways of the mind and not true Ch’an. They are limited. He also explained the colors of our HeartZen logo.
All this had to go through translation from elder brother JM. So I’m sure it had more impact without the language change breaks and things are lessen sometimes in language and culture translations. There was a lot said, a lot I do not remember on the surface. I think that is of leaser importance than being there in the presence of the Shifu’s Chi. I wish I had a recording, maybe one will show up. There are old video sessions on line. Which I can listened to at leisure. I will do so again, I think they will sound different, now that I have seen the Shifu live…or not
We thankfully got a break after the first hour. We were suffering. I understand that part of the training in sitting is going beyond the discomfort to find calmness. Sitting is also training for life and spirit. Like doing horse stance in Kung Fu. Anyhow, you gotta break sometime.
After the second part of the morning lecture, on things, like Chakras, reincarnation, heaven, & hell. We broke for lunch. Sandwiches from Quzinos Subs! Nice, Veggie ones at that. I had two, I was hungry after a light dinner and much lighter breakfast.
I found Lady Z, my Cuz and I some shade to sit in. Oh btw, it was about 100 degrees there in Southern CA. Not at all like Northern Cal where it was somewhat cool and most of the US still dealing with coldness and snow in some places.
Not that we did not want to sit with anyone, but all the shade spots were taken, except up next the to bushes. We kind of grouped there. At some point while I was getting seconds to feed my face, brother JM came and sat and talked with the ladies and myself and one other who joined us. It is always interesting to listen to brother JM speak. He is able to explain things well. He spoke of living zen not just reading about what the Buddha did thousands of years ago from the Sutras. Basically practice and write ones own sutras. Also about the Shifu and his connection to the Force, also things that he himself had seen, and experienced. He also related how this visit came about and the number of people in attendance. My only disappointment, was that LadyZ did not get to get talk more with the other Japanese lady, she left just after lunch started and did not stay for the whole event. I did get to chat some with a couple of people about the Martial Arts side of Shaolin.
After lunch we had another session with the Shifu. Before he arrived, we were given Amber colored bracelets, which he, the Shifu had brought with him from Taiwan or south America ( I did not quite get which which) and had done blessings on. Generally we are told that the Shifu get the gifts. But with him he gives to his students, he has no needs.
We were asked to submit questions for him. He would address them. There were many questions. He went through them for the next hour and there were still more. I do not remember all of them. But some of his answers where funny and informative. I was pleased to hear him saying, he was not a Buddha. ( shows humbleness) He would say that The Dala Lama is the only one he has met. He also spoke on our need to do something about the environment a living presense. He spoke on Greed, and how in a sense staying up past 11:00 or 12:00 doing something is a form of greed. Our bodies operate on a natural cycle, when we disrupt that cycle by a choice we are being greedy. It was remarked later by my cuz she noticed, he did not directly answer some of the questions. He touched on them, but some things, he said needed to be experienced not just told this is how it is. Which is part of what our practice is about. Not being told how things are and feel but to practice and experience for ourselves what things are, and how they feel. That way you are not living, doing, acting on faith, on a belief, you are living an experience.
By now into the second section my legs are killing. I hear others around me shifting as well. I do not feel so bad now, others are suffering with me, we are a team 🙂
I am hoping for a break, my legs and my bladder need a break!!! The break did not come, but we finished that section early. Next it was meet and greet time with the Shifu. We lined up, with people who had met Shifu before standing in the rear. Us new folks in the front. Finally it was our turn. I was introduced and I introduced the Lady Z in Chinese. We had an exchange of words, in Japanese & Chinese then had a couple of pictures taken.
It was getting close to the end of the day now. Our plane would be leaving soon. There was another stop to make. This was the last meeting at this location. There was a new center which we were going to today so that the master could bless the location. So many of us headed over to the new park location.
We all relocated to the new place, the Shifu came last and we lined up to greet him. Once in the new room there was a Buddha painting that was hung.
The master did some brief ceremony that had to do with opening the “eyes” of the Buddha, turning on the light, otherwise it was just a painting. He did the blessing on the room and on all of us there. I did not get the words, but I understood what was happening.
Interestingly when I got home I thought to myself a couple of times that evening and the next day how peaceful I felt. Like everything would be ok, don’t worry be happy.
Later the next day I get an email from Brother JM, he said, he may have forgot to translate what was happening with the blessing. He said
“At the Heritage Park, when our Master turned around toward us, after he turn on the light for the Buddha, did you notice that he did a sprinkling like gesture to all of us? That is to sprinkle us with the Loving kindness of Buddha.
If you are calm, you can feel the energy. Some of us may even feel like crying.”
Wow I thought that is just how I felt. Not the crying part, but for real a sense of peace.
Anyway, back to the retreat, we are now to the closing. We take group pictures outside and end. Then we three head off to the airport sadly leaving the rest of the group. It was a good trip. Great to see old faces, and met the new ones. Meeting Shifu was an honor and worthwhile for the trip. My Christian side felt better not feeling any conflict coming from him. My Buddhist side felt comfort in meeting the Shifu and receiving the blessings. Being a Christian Buddhist or Zen Christian, I need to have internal balance and harmony with the concepts of both in my heart and mind.Yeah I knew there is no such things a Zen Christian or the like, but people make up labels all the time. I can also. Oh, maybe Shaolin Christian Buddhist , Christain Shaolin Buddhist,…A rose by any other name…Hmmm maybe I can start a new Christian Buddhist Ch’an Sect…
We made it back to the airport and made our plane with time to spare. We three sat together on the flight home. It was good, we napped a bit on our 1.15 hr flight. I said to my cousin. Wow, when we were growing up in Philly who would have ever thought we’d be flying back to the S.F. area after meeting with a Chinese Zen master from Taiwan in LA. Life is a trip isn’t!