tonchan!, originally uploaded by renfield.

The alien lives, and is watching you. Tonchan is now about a kilo, and P is feelin' it! Tonchan is also kicking and groovin' about regularly, making is really difficult for P to get a good night's sleep!

dinner zen

Met some of the Zenner's at Hachiko. We grabbed some dinner at a random local place, then finished up with Traditional Japanese Dessert at TGIF's. Brad showed us some killer old photos of the 80's punk scene in Ohio and we reminisced about the old punk/hardcore days. He's about 8 years older than me, so he's more legit than I was, but then again I caught the beginnings of the hardcore skate-punk scene and the peaking Straight Edge movement.
Good to blather away with a bunch of well grounded folks, and quite an international crew at that.
Some day I will have to get out to see Nishijima-sensei, too.

10 rounds

I-Sensei was in a fine mood today, and had us work on stamina. We did five three-minute rounds of kicking, non-stop, with only 30-second breaks between rounds. Then we did five rounds of punching, again non-stop. Double plus pain. Many sweatings. Much sore.

one frito tastes as good as the whole bag.

shizuoka station, originally uploaded by renfield.

Spent the past couple days in Tokei-in, a wee old temple in the tea-leaf foothills of Shizuoka. This is the second time I've joined the Dogen Sangha retreat, lead by World Famous Author (only calling him that because he really ain't keen on it) Brad Warner.

Last year I was mostly concerned with why: why sit uncomfortably on a little cushion staring at the wall? Why all this fancy bowing and ritual and religious mumbo-jumbo making the monks rich off of funerals? Why spend a weekend in the hills, getting assaulted by bugs and eating according to a stylized ritual that guarantees nothing will be eaten warm?

I didn't manage to answer any of these questions, but this year I instead started asking how: How can I sit every morning, even when it's cold, or when I'm tired? How can I keep the mind and leg numbing boredom from making me give it up? How do I keep my back straight? How do I control my breathing without trying to control my breathing?

I am less cynical about all the religious bits and bobs. Not because I don't think it's mainly a bunch of tax-exempt crap, but because there is something to the structure and ritual and costume and social interaction of it all. I certainly couldn't motivate myself to get up at 4:30 and sit for hours every day, so there's something to be said for the whole temple experience.

The other cool thing: I am starting to figure out that it's not about going to a special temple and having a great, mellowing experience, and then leaving it and returning to reality. It's about spending a weekend sitting, and eating, and cleaning the toilets, and tending the yard. I think I most enjoyed: making a mess of the rock garden, and doing the last meal service -- curry rice. Usually meal service is a very specific series of chants, serving food, eating in silence; very regimented and really meant to get you to focus on the meal, on the fact that without this food you die, and to really appreciate that, by serving, thanking, eating, cleaning up (you get some hot water and use your last pickle to rinse out all your bowls.)
But the last lunch, after we'd put away our traditional three-bowl-and-chopsticks set, was your basic Japanese curry: rice on a plate, eaten with a spoon. I was serving, so I had to think about how to serve and keep some semblance of the ceremony, the process, and I really thought that zen is figuring out how to serve and appreciate the basics of life, like lunch.

Brad was in fine form for the lectures as well. He claims to not enjoy doing them, but he's an engaging speaker, and as this was his third time running the show, he's starting to diverge from the standard script, and I think we had some good discussions because of that. Interesting discussion about respecting "noble silence" more, and maybe sitting more, and maybe working more. In all it was engaging, tiring, delicious, and really, really boring.