It was here, seems like it came too soon. I got done only a few of the things I wanted. Mostly things were outside of Chozenji. I had no control over missing out on things at Chozenji. Really I have no control over anything, except how I react to things I have no control over. However with keeping a grateful mind and heart I did get somethings some things experienced there and some is better than none. I remember, and I meditated on, do not be attached to even goals. It is better to be grateful for everything than be in sorrow for what was not. With that, everyday is a good day and a blessing! Monday was to be a somewhat busy day. I had planned on a morning class at Chozenji. It was called, ”
PRACTICAL ZEN – PHYSICAL APPLICATIONS FOR AGING GRACEFULLY
It was not on my original list of things to attend, however since I was there and had few choices (none) I accepted what the Universe offered.
“There are times we can not get what we want, but are given what we need…” Brown Buddha
Other than the name of the class I knew nothing of what to expect besides what Les had told me. It was a class for older people, I was told. Some self-massage and things. Not sure what the things were to be, but I was open. Since I had not gotten what I planned for the trip there I needed to remain open to what the universe was giving me.
The class started at 9:30am. There was an earlier meditation class @ 5:30am, but seem silly to attend then need to go somewhere to hang out for a few hours and then return, then leave and return again. I arrived at 8:45am. The class started at 9:00 unlike the other classes, this one had the class first then ended with the meditation.
The class leader was an Aikido Sensei. He seemed nice, I liked him. Friendly and polite. About my age, maybe older. Others showed up, all about my age, older folks. Everyone was nice. Les was there I was surprised to see him. I thought he was only coming to the evening Tai Chi class. When the class started he went up to the front with the sensei to help run things. I made note that the Sensei called him Sensei also. I felt comfortable and settled in.
The class started with how to fall and roll, sort of, and the importance of maintaining one’s center and how to roll when one lost balance. These were not really full how to roll lessons. Rolling from a standing position, but more of how you should be if you are bent over, and how one should pickup stuff so not to fall. Also, it taught how to do self-massage, that was really more of the focus On the legs and foot with the foot and other leg. I could not figure out why it was being shown with using the opposite leg, foot to massage when it could be done with the hands easier for the most part. I did not ask, I just rolled with it to learn what I could. I emptied my cup to taste the master’s tea. I did not question anything. I just accepted and opened my mind to the lessons. So we lay down and did massage on our legs with the other leg and foot. Also did some twisting drills to help align the spine. I thought they were all super easy, however, I could see where it may be a problem for some. On one exercise, the sensei came to me and said are you ok? Not hurting too much. I said I do not feel anything! He said ohh, you are in good shape, you must be able to sit full lotus. I said yes. He asked my age and then said keep up the good work. I liked him. I would have like to have spent some time in his Aikido class… but time was not on my side, unlike the Rolling Stones song :-).
We finished up the class with 30 min of Zazen. It was an ok class. Mostly a stretching class massage class. I would not have picked it, but it was all there was.
After class, I returned to the community room to gather my stuff to go to the hotel, since I could not hang out and practice. The young priest ( I figured out later, he is not a head priest just a young priest on the staff) was there. He said ohh’ We missed you in meditation class this morning. Referring to the 5:30a.m. Zazen. I just lightly smiled and said, I am here now, and will return tonight. However, my inner thoughts were not so polite. I let it go at that, gathered my stuff and left. I took the bus back to the hotel an hour away. I suppose an hour bus ride is not really a big deal, it is not, but I could have been doing something more productive, like practicing. If I had a little compassion shown…Anyway, yeah moving on.
That evening I returned. I arrived sort of early, there was a zazen session going on in the main hall. For a quick moment flash I thought oh no, I am late! However no, but I did not know just what to do, so I walked up the mount to take some photos and wait. it should be ending soon. While I was there the clapper was rung. I did not know what it meant other than there would be started another sitting soon. I came down off the hill and went to the Loo to get ready for the sitting. I returned, there was already one person sitting, I entered a bit late from the sense of things. Being I did not enter with the person and he was already sitting, I felt off, but they had not started. I grabbed my cushions and entered. I was directed on where to walk and what cushion to take. Since I started out wrong and did not know things were in a different order than what I was told how where to sit. Ok, no biggie, I thought, wrongly!
I sat and was told how to align myself with the other person. Something I had not heard before. My knees were off the cushion and not on the edge of the cushion. This is Les leading the class now. I felt a bit off as I was not used to the whole format. Anyway, I just did what I was told and adjusted.
We sat for the 45 min. At the end the other person there left, it was just Les and myself for the class. He had said this was possible in the morning session. I got a lecture on how to enter the room and join the group, also on my timing on when to enter and when others were leaving. I had no idea before, so I just listened, with no excuses.
He spoke to me of many things, about how people should learn from watching others, not just being told. That was part of Zen training. Not in an angry way, he spoke, but just informing me how things have changed and what was the “way”. I needed to learn that. He spoke of some of his history with the group and how things were expected to be done and how it has changed from when the seniors were there. How a serious student would, could and should, learn things without being told, but just by being aware after coming several times and common sense. That was also part of the training, watching and learning! I recall Nogami Sensei saying the same about Kyudo
He spoke things about the old ways and the new leader’s way. Things that were lacking or had been slacked off on from when the old master was there. I listened.
Next he showed me a tool he was using to help his balance, strength and center. He had me try it. It was heavy. he said it worked one sense of balance and timing. How to become “one” with something to get the effect wanted no to “power” one’s way through something. Swing this weight, feel when the empty spot is to switch hands. Move it maintain your center.
He and I were the only ones in class. This was the Tai Chi Class. The other person who was there during the sitting had left. So it was just the two of us for the Tai Chi session. Mostly we spoke of this balancing tool he had and keeping one’s center and how it would aid in training. We also spoke of breath and chanting. He spoke of how the old master and many others were also musicians, how it tied into breath, timing, and awareness of nature, rhythm. He told me a few stories about the old master, the founder, who was a music teacher at a local school. I told him I played Shakuhachi as part of my Buddhist practice. He thought that was good, another one of the Roshi there was also a Shakuhachi player, he said. I knew that part of my reason for coming. He said the young priest was coming along as a player. He told me oh how his chanting had made a big difference in his breath. Chanting was a large part of training there. especially for the older students who could not do the heavy physical training of Kendo and the like. I was also told about the Sesshin they hold a couple of times a year. Something I may want to consider doing.
This continued for a while. I listened much more than spoke, wanting to learn about the way there, not talk about myself. It was a good conversation. I learned much of small things. I reconfirmed ideas of my own. He was not much older than me but had experience with the founder. He said this, connecting with the founder left a lasting impression. He spoke of him with great respect.
Then he asked about what kind of drills I do in my system and about Pushing hands. I showed him Tai Chi push Hands and some Chi gong drills along with one Mantis sensitivity drill. Which dealt with blocking trap and punch. We shared info, talk, and a little practice. He said he is unable to do push hand drills as he has no one to practice with. He then wanted to do Tai Chi with me. He would follow best he could he said. he had learned Yang 36. I did Yang 24, which I thought would be easier for him to follow instead of Chen style. I felt I was teaching not learning from the class. It was cool though. There is a saying one teaches, two learn. He also told me at one point his greatest pleasure came from doing volunteer work at an old folks home, teaching them simple Tai Chi. There were grateful for anything. Even if they could not do much even a small whatever they could do was helpful for them. I had been giving some thought to doing some sort of free Tai Chi/English class in my community.
We continued like this through class time. Speaking on things Zen related and Budo, of students doing the outer form of Tai Chi but not understanding the inner in a rush to complete the form. This was the same with those doing Aikido, Kendo, etc.
Then we prepared to leave. The final class was over. I felt like I had not taken a class, but learned anyway. Of course just everyday living is a class, when one’s eyes, heart and mind are open.
I thanked him after we closed and went to the office to gather my stuff and pay for a book. I could hear him chanting in the dojo as I was walking to the community room. Chanting is a big things there at Chozenji. The person I first dealt with at Chozenji was the one handling the purchases. I was getting some weird vibes from her. I noticed it earlier when I asked if would she be there after class so I could purchase a book. I wrote it off as she was perhaps in some weird mood, perhaps because of her boyfriend the young priest, and it nothing to do with me, I should just ignore it.
I had a little issue with the purchase. We had run out of money on the debit card. I had to pay with MasterCard from Japan. Ok not a big deal.
I was asked when I am leaving and did I get what I wanted out of the visit? I said tomorrow morning. No, I did not get what I wanted, I said. I was disappointed not to meet the Kyudo/shakuhachi sensei. She said, sorry when you told me in the beginning you played Shakuhachi I did not put you in touch with Honda Roshi. Hmmm I thought. However, somethings cannot be helped, this was one of them. I guess it will happen another time if it is meant to be, it will be. I said when one looks at things from a mind of gratitude, everything is all good.
I thanked her and left. It was over!
Next up final thoughts…Epilogue