Sunday, June 22, 2008

NEW SUICIDE GIRLS ARTICLE

My new Suicide Girls article will be up as of 6AM Pacific Time Monday June 23rd. This would have been my mother's 67th birthday if she were alive. But that isn't what I wrote about. I won't be able to post the link, though, until I return from Tassajara in two weeks. So maybe some clever person can post the link in the comments section of this posting. Also, on June 25th my interview with Randy Blythe of Lamb Of God goes up. So maybe someone will post that link as well.

I looked over a couple of the over 300 posts to my previous thing. Jesus God in Heaven! You people really do need to get yourselves a hobby! For the record, I do not think prison rape is funny. Nor do I think that prisoners are not human beings. In fact, when I made the comment, the idea that Bruno The Snake (who is fictional, I should add) might have raped me did not even enter my mind. Some will call me disingenuous. But believe it or not, folks, I am not disingenuous. I am actually stupid. Talk to people who know me. They'll tell you. Smoggy Rob, Mary Grace, tell them! In any case, I'm sorry the comment upset people so much. But would you have even been able to address the topic had I not written what I did?

The sesshin in Berkeley was very nice, thank you. I have to get up at 5 AM tomorrow to drive for three hours. So forgive me for being brief (that's what she said).

.... It's 4:34 AM. I can't sleep anymore. So I'm going to leave even earlier. But about that sesshin and the new SG article — as the sesshin progressed I was feeling more and more the feelings I expressed in that piece. I hated it. The ceremonial aspects of the thing were so forced and so contrived and everyone there was so into all that silliness. I just wanted out.

The sesshin culminated in a shusho (head monk) ceremony. Go look it up, I haven't got time to explain. This was the worst. After four and a half days of ceremonial nonsense, this was the most nonsensical ceremony yet. Before it started I heard some people gabbing about how beautiful and moving it would be, and beaming glowing love beams at the woman who was to be head monk. I wanted to puke.

But you know something? It was a beautiful and moving ceremony. I was glad to have been there. And, Geri, I don't know you at all. But I know you'll be a great teacher. You told the truth up there. That's such a rare and valuable thing.

And with that I'm off to Tassajara. There are fires on three sides of the place and they're already preparing for evacuation should the closest fire start to threaten the monastery. But the person I'm going to see up there is very dear to me and I'm not going to be deterred.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

HELP

I am being held captive in a cell in San Quentin by my new boyfriend Bruno The Snake. I've managed to get access to one of the guard house computers through the exchange of certain "favors." Please, anyone, send help soon...**





** I'm kidding. OK? Please don't contact San Quentin on my behalf.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING

I'm up at the San Francisco Zen Center again. This place is getting to be like a second home or something. Or I'm getting to be like an unwanted guest who keeps stopping by and will never leave. But I'm here again anyway.

Starting Wednesday I'll be sitting a five-day sesshin at the Berkeley Zen Center. That should be boring. Don't know how I got talked into that one. But my friend Greg somehow managed to. This will be my second of four multi-day sittings I'm scheduled to do this year. God, how I hate them! And I'm not even leading this one! I'm just one of the grunts on the cushions.

I don't know if I should say I hate multi-day Zen sittings. I mean, I definitely do hate them. But I also enjoy them. The first time I did one I felt like I was embarking on a great adventure. After I'd done a dozen or so of them I started viewing them as a chore, especially when I started having to lead the damned things. Now I don't know how I view them. I have no real sense of anticipation or dread with this one. It's just a thing I'm doing. I'm still waiting for the company I work for (or do I?) to get their stuff together, which is supposed to happen sometime in July. So what else do I have to do? Might as well get some Zazen in.

I highly recommend anyone who's serious about Zen practice to do at least one multi-day sesshin a year. I think a two or three-day one is fine. Somehow the ones I lead in Shizuoka, Japan each year (see the link to your left for details) got extended to four days. And that's OK. But I kinda want to bring those back down to three again.

There's a depth of practice you get into in a multi-day sitting that just doesn't happen otherwise. It's good to get into this depth. But it's also important to come back out of it. Sometimes people get the mistaken impression that the deep stuff is somehow more important than the normal day-to-day stuff. And that's not true at all. Still, try a multi-day one sometime if you can.

But before that, I get to go talk at San Quentin again. That happens this afternoon. If I can, I'll post something about the trip tomorrow. That is, unless I get kidnapped in a prison uprising or something.

See ya(?).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wii ZEN



TRANSLATION:

Announcer: Mr. Gori’s training.

On screen words: The flame will still your confused mind. Without moving, quietly allow your mind to settle.

Loud voice: Katsu! (nonsense syllable used mainly at Rinzai temples often as kind of reprimand)

Announcer: Game over. For your family health, Wii Fit.

On screen words: Weight, BMI (body mass index??), Center of gravity balance, Various training. Wii Fit, List price 8,800 yen.

Mr. Gori: But I was thinking of the blue skies and blue sea of Okinawa the whole time!

*****

I've seen worse stuff advertised in the backs of Buddhist magazines...

BEN'S VISIT

Here, for your entertainment and edification is an e-mail I just sent my sister about my nephew's visit to me in Santa Monica. For background, Ben's dad is Jewish and he identifies very much with being Jewish, although he's really not very observant. Here it is:

Stacey,

My sad old brain doesn’t work well enough to give a chronological account of Ben’s stay. So I’ll give it to you in the order I can recall.

The coolest stuff happened on the last day he was here, Sunday. One of my friends from the Suicide Girls, Aspen, said she’d take him out to Manhattan Beach, which is a few miles South of where I live. I was not invited. But she came and picked him up with her hot blonde friend and off they went. He came back several hours later extremely sunburnt. He said he also got to hang out with another Suicide Girl, James (that's what she calls herself). So I’m sure he had fun.

Later on that night we decided to go catch a live comedy show at Upright Citizen’s Brigade. I didn’t know about UCB yet when you visited, which is too bad. It’s far and away the coolest of the comedy clubs I’ve been to in town. For one thing all the shows are cheap or free. So we went up to this new thing they’re doing where comedians get 2 minutes a piece on stage. They were auditioning people for a new edition of The Gong Show. These were not the usual amateur novelty acts, though, but pro and semi-pro comedians who would be on the show as filler between. So he announces the first act of the evening… Robin Williams. Yep. That Robin Williams, of Mork & Mindy and The World According To Garp fame. He did two minutes. Very funny. But actually, in context, some of the other acts were better than he was that night. My new comedy crush is this guy named Eddie Pepitone. Go look him up on MySpace. He was there too and great as he always is whenever I see him.

We had gone to UCB a few nights before. Maybe his second night in LA. I’m not sure. That night, Janeane Garofalo made an appearance. I’m not really familiar with her stuff. According to the Internet Movie Database, “the petite woman with the acerbic wit, was born in Newton, New Jersey, in 1964.” She sure didn’t look as old as me! Good for her! She was funny. Earlier that night Ben and I took a Yoga class taught by my friend Nina. I didn’t think he’d take the class. I was gonna let him stay at Nina’s apartment and watch TV while I did the class. But he did it, which I thought was pretty cool of him. Also very cool of Nina was the fact that she got him into the class for free. This probably didn’t cost her anything. But she makes her living as a Yoga instructor and is paid according to the number of people who attend her classes. So she wasn’t paid for Ben’s portion.

He also sat Zazen with us on Saturday. Did pretty good for an 18 year old trying it for the first time. He fidgeted some. But he stayed with it. I’ve had people walk out in the middle before.

Let’s see. We must’ve done other stuff. I kept asking him what sort of things he wanted to do and he’d just leave it up to me. When people do that I always go where I want to go. Which is mean, I guess. But I’m not going to sit around trying to figure out what they might like. So we went to Amoeba Records, a gigantic record store in Hollywood, and some bookstores. He hated the bookstores. He liked Amoeba, though.

I took him to Venice Beach. And to the Fairfax district, the Jewish part of town. He liked that. I introduced him to Helen, my Jewish friend (I have other Jewish friends, but Helen is the one who seems most concerned with what it is to be Jewish), who was also the person who got me the gig writing for Suicide Girls. We ate Ethiopian food together and he got to talk religion with someone who was actually interested. She said if he pitched him an idea she might be able to hire him as a columnist for this website she writes for called Jewcy. It’s supposed to be a hip, “now” kind of Jewish website for young, hip Jews. Helen loved the idea of a column by an 18 year old Jewboy from Knoxville, Tennessee. You should tell Ben he ought to take this seriously because it might pay money. He keeps talking about wanting to be a writer. I wished I’d had an opportunity like that fall into my lap at his age.

I took him to Hollywood to see Graumann’s Chinese Theater and all the footprints in cement. We went around Santa Monica some, to the beach and the Third Street Promenade for a couple minutes. We went and looked at the amusement park on the pier, but we didn’t go on any rides. I took him to my friend Svetlana’s place for no particular reason. She makes movies. She’s from Montenegro, formerly part of Yugoslavia.

That’s all the details I can remember. I think he enjoyed it. I didn’t get any work done the entire week. He was good about the fact that he had to remove all his bedding from the meditation room each morning. He talked a lot. He asked a lot of questions I couldn’t possibly answer.

If he comes here again I gotta find other people to play with him because it’s too exhausting with just me. But otherwise it was great.

Brad

Friday, June 06, 2008

THAT'S ZENTERTAINMENT

I've been thinking about my love/hate relationship with this blog, its comments section, writing, and Zen in general. As so many nice people have kindly pointed out, the quality of writing on this here blog is not up to the standard of my books or Suicide Girls articles. And to that I say, d'uh!. And possibly even, no shit Sherlock.

The whole point of blogging is that it's spontaneous, immediate, uncensored and largely unedited. Plus I don't get paid for writing this stuff, which gives me even less reason to sit and labor over it for hours and days and weeks and months like I do over books and pieces for Suicide Girls and other paying customers. I often write this stuff here as a kind of warm-up for writing "better" stuff later. It's funny how writing works almost like exercise in that way.

Anyhow, take the comments section. Please! At first I was really jazzed about it because of the promise of immediate feedback for my writing. Then when I started reading the comments it got really depressing because even a lot of the nice people seemed not to be really getting what I was trying to put across. Then there were the trolls. And by "trolls" I'm not simply referring just to people who question or challenge what I say. That's fine. I like that. I'm talking about people who are deliberately trying to be hurtful and mean. If you've ever clicked on the comments section here you know exactly what kind of responses I'm talking about and exactly which ones I'm not talking about. But click down there right now and I can guarantee you some troll is pretending he doesn't.

Whatever.

It's let me know that real communication is a very rare thing. Possibly one of the rarest things in this world. We talk and talk and talk at each other. We write mountains of words. I was in a Jewish bookstore on Fairfax with Ben yesterday marveling at hundred and hundreds of books I'd never even suspected existed. Yet here were all these words trying desperately to mean something to someone. Just like all the Buddhist books at Bodhi Tree bookstore over on Melrose Avenue. But it's so seldom anything really penetrates that when some random thing does get through it seems like a miracle.

Which is why I'm fed up with providing Zentertainment. Zentertainment is Zen as entertainment. It's when you stand up in front of a bunch of people and make Zen noises at them and they look up at you and go, "Oooh" and "Ahhh" in response. I talked about Dharma talks last time. And afterwards I started wondering where this phrase "Dharma talk" even originated. It's certainly not a phrase I ever heard used by either of my teachers. I can't say I've even once heard a "Dharma talk" by either Tim or Nishijima. And yet I've gotten all warped and corrupted by the corporate Zen world and have been trying the last few years to deliver the foul things.

But I don't feel like I'm communicating anything at all when I get into that mode. It satisfies the punters. But it does nothing for me. And, seriously, I don't think it does anything good for the audience either. It just gives them fantasies. And if I want to give people fantasies I'd rather give them fantasies about monsters and flying saucers than about Enlightened Beings and The Great Dharma.

Which doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying to communicate. As Katagiri Roshi said, "You have to say something." So I'm gonna keep on saying things. But it's gotta be more real than it's been lately.

Anyway, that's just some random unedited bullshit I'm throwing out to you before I have to go find things to keep my nephew from bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day.

See ya!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"IN THE MOMENT" and DHARMA TALKS and MY NEPHEW

My nephew Ben is out here visiting me from Knoxville, Tennessee. He just graduated high school and his mom (my sister) gave him a trip out to sunny Santa Monica to visit his groovy uncle as a graduation present. What do you do with an 18 year old? Some of the Suicide Girls offered to take him swimming with them on Saturday. So that should be fun for him. But what do I do till then?

In any case, I'm not able to blog much with him hanging around. But I did want to take a moment to skewer yet another phrase I'm sick to death of hearing. And that phrase is the ever-popular, "in the moment." No one is allowed to ever say the words "in the moment" again from this day forward. I have declared it. It's yet another of those phrases that I doubt ever had any real usefulness and by now has become completely without meaning or merit. So just stop saying it. OK?

I'm also thinking I'm gonna stop doing so-called "Dharma talks." Maybe for good. Maybe just for now. I've just started to notice that anytime I talk what people stereotypically think of as "Buddhist stuff" I end up being kind of like a tamboura. You know what those are? It's an Indian instrument that makes a droning, buzzing sound. Listen to the beginning of Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles. That's a tamboura. It's a really beautiful sound, very hypnotic and lulling.

Sometimes I'm talking and I look out and I see people get all glassy-eyed and start nodding whenever they hear certain buzzwords. I've seen this happen to other speakers as well. It's almost as if you could just stand in front of people and literally go, "Buzz buzz buzz buzz DHARMA buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz MINDFUL buzz buzz buzz buzz SKILLFUL MEANS buzz buzz buzz buzz YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE" and they'd go away all blissed out and satisfied. So, at least for now I'm giving up on the so-called "Dharma talk" business.

Some folks who come to my Zen things on Saturdays have been complaining I'm not giving what they consider to be proper "Dharma talks" anymore. I just don't think they've been ever paying attention in the first place.

Anyhow, if I'm invited somewhere specifically to give a talk, I'll give one. A damn good one. With jokes and stories and whatever insights I can muster. And, of course, I'll do promotional stuff for my books and whatever. That's fine. But no more droning on about stuff that people want to sleep to.

Here's my new favorite comedian Eddie Pepitone.

Monday, June 02, 2008

SPIRITUAL SCHWAG

I wrote a poem today. It goes like this:

Spiritual schwag, spiritual schwag
Put a bunch of you in a bag
Take you home
Put you on a shelf
Then I’ll transcend
My illusory self

Spiritual schwag is, of course, all the dumb spiritual crap you find in New Age bookstores and the like. Healing crystals, little amulets, those little bracelet thingies with the beads on ‘em…

Maybe it’s because I came into this whole spiritual teacher thing ass backwards. I never really wanted to be a spiritual teacher or, even worse, a spiritual leader. I assume a lot of guys in this game did. That was their childhood dream. They practiced in front of mirrors and wished and hoped and eventually they realized their dream. Good for them.

Last Saturday at our weekly Zazen meeting at Hill Street Center a discussion broke out among the usual ten people who show up concerning how we might expand our operation. I told the people there that I had no desire to do anything of the sort.

A couple of these folks had gone a few days earlier to the other side of town to check out another Buddhist teacher. They were amazed to find that he got between 75 and 100 people to show up and meditate with him every week. How come we only ever got ten? And how come we were still renting a place when we could gather up donations and buy a permanent Zen center of our very own?

But there are problems with this kind of thinking. For one thing, Zen practice is never gonna be popular. Well, never say “never,” right? But it’s not gonna happen any time soon. And that’s fine. Even if 75 people showed up at Hill Street, there would still only be ten who were serious, plus 65 people who came to be entertained. And I’d rather not deal with those other 65 people getting in the way and making a mess.

The only thing those extra people really contribute is extra money. And the only reason you need that extra money is to make a facility that can accommodate those extra people. It’s like a snake eating its own tail.

So far I’m earning my keep through my writing and through my work in the movie biz. I’m happy with that situation. When it comes to writing, I want to sell as many books as I possibly can. I’ll promote that stuff till I’m ragged and run down. No problem. Buy some books. There’s a link right over to your left so you can order ‘em from Amazon. Or be a better person and buy them from your local bookstore. Go click on the link to my Suicide Girls articles ten times right now to make folks think I got a lot of readers. Buy, buy, buy!!

But my practice is pretty much a personal thing. It’s helped me and I’m glad to make it available to others. But I’m not trying to sell it. I sit on Saturday mornings and if people want to join me, good. If not, also good.

The only way I could see myself ever trying to earn a living as a spiritual master would be if I couldn’t get a real job and my books stopped selling. In other words, it would be an act of desperation. While other people tend to look at spiritual masters and ascribe lofty motivations to their actions, I tend to see them as desperate, needy people, a bit like the homeless guys who wash your windshield at a freeway off-ramp and try to get you to give ‘em quarters for it. But, then again, we all do that. We see someone doing or saying something, we imagine what conditions would make us do or say that kind of thing, then ascribe those motivations to those people. That’s why so many folks read my stuff as angry, I think. They can’t imagine themselves ever saying, “fuck” unless their blood was just boiling and assume I must be the same way. Which is my way of saying that even though I tend to see professional spiritual masters as desperate, I’m aware I could be mistaken.

Maybe someday I’ll open some kind of a center. I don’t rule out the idea entirely. But right now I’m not very interested. Plus, even if I did open up a place the stance we’d take would be the same; we sit at a certain time of day and you can join if you want.