‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Friday, July 20, 2007

holier than thou

I drove up to my friend's townhouse today and noticed several people on her lawn, genuflecting. I had flashing thoughts of the apocalypse and wondered if maybe she had been revealed as the new Up and Coming Savior between the time I called her to let her know I was on the way and the time I drove up. And then I got closer and realized they were landscapers and it was shear coincidence that they were all kneeling at the same time and all happened to be facing in the direction of her front door.

How cool would it be, to be the one bringing the Up and Coming Saviour her Dunkin' Donuts coffee?

I don't think I've ever met anyone who made me want to genuflect. Or landscape. Although there was one guy at a Zen monastery who nearly inspired me to do both....

Ages and ages ago I got a course catalog in the mail from Zen Mountain Monastery, near Woodstock, NY. In it was listed an "Introduction to Zen" weekend. I thought to myself, I should do that sometime. And then I got sort of peeved with myself because I am always muttering things like that and never following through and it's such a waste because some of the things I want to do are actually worth doing. Although many aren't.

So I signed up. And then I made Chris sign up.

When we were signing in, the woman at the welcome desk asked if we had any dietary restrictions. I mentioned that I didn't do well with shellfish, so please no clambakes. The man who was rustling around in the supply closet behind her peeked out and glowed at me. I think he may have smiled, but who can tell with all that glowing? I thought wow, if that's what they turn you into here, I'm staying.

Fortunately for my employer, my landlord and my mom I am diametrically opposed to dedicating myself to anything more involved or demanding than breakfast. When I discovered that the man in the supply closet was one of the teachers and had devoted his life For Years to the study of Buddhism, I was kind of over it.

But I didn't realize it right away, and by then I was having a really good time. For one thing, it's just beautiful there. And then the people were amazing. One of the things they ask you to do is only bring simple clothes in muted colors - no patterns or Hello Kitty logos. And then you discover that when people aren't wearing distracting clothing, with which they are trying to describe themselves, it's easier to see who they are.

One of the things they did (this is where the landscaping part comes in) is "Work Practice". That's where you are given a job to do - vacuuming the stairs, polishing candlesticks, cleaning bathrooms, landscaping - and have to do it single-mindedly, as if you are still in meditation. Which explains why everything was So Clean. Oh, and if you expressed a desire for one area of work, or a strength or special skill at doing one task, that's what they DIDN'T give you to do.

They were very Zen that way.

Chris and I liked it so much that we bought Zen Mountain Monastery t-shirts at the end of the weekend, with which we can more efficiently describe ourselves as the sort of people with connections to a Zen monastery.

Heaven help the person who saw the shirt and asked us about it. Because we Would Not Shut Up.

I'd go back just for the food.

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