Thursday, January 29, 2009

REBUTTAL TO SOCK MONKEY'S LATEST RANT

Sock Monkey has put another video up on YouTube, this one concerning my new book:



I would like to make some corrections to what he has said in this video. While the book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharmadoes contain some material concerning sex, it does not contain "dirty parts" as Sock Monkey says. The book is in no way pornographic at all. I admit that at one point I wrote a somewhat pornographic version. But even there it was more an attempt at parodying a naive Fifties style one might find in an old dime store sex novel than actually trying to be "dirty." This didn't work so I revised the text and eliminated those portions.

He says there are scenes of drug abuse. It is true that drug use is mentioned, but not in such a way as to glorify or condone it. This is a very important point. I have made my stance on drug abuse abundantly clear both in this book and in other writings. I am 100% against the use of drugs especially when it comes to the so-called "meditative" or "enlightenment-producing" qualities of these substances. They have none. Drugs have no place at all in the true quest for one's original nature.

Finally he states that the book contains, "insults towards many Zen teachers who are nice people who should not be insulted." This is completely false. No Zen teachers are insulted in the book. I wrote about certain trends that worry me in American Zen. But I did not mention anyone specific save for a few references to the late Frederick "Zen Master Rama" Lenz, who couldn't really be called a Zen teacher in any case.

As to his allegations that he wrote the book while I "sat in (my) room picking (my) nose all day" this is patently absurd. Sock Monkey did not write this or any of my books. All allegations that my books have been "heavily ghost written" are completely false. One can compare the writing style in this blog to the style in my books and see that they are all the work of the same person.

Furthermore his statement that he played all of the bass parts on the new Zero Defex CD, this is also a lie. I played all of the bass guitar on that CD and there are numerous videos available to prove it. Does Sock Monkey appear in any of this video material? No.

Sock Monkey also ignores the rest of the contents of the book, which is a sincere attempt to look at how the Dharma fits into real life in the 21st century. The material he talks about is there only to give examples of how Zen practice and Zen teaching is a real activity done by real people, not by cartoon-like "Enlightened Beings" who couldn't possibly exist in any case. To ignore this material is to ignore 90% of the book while focusing only on the small portion that is controversial. This is an immature response to the work. Though I would hardly expect maturity from a stuffed animal made from undergarments, I did expect better from Sock Monkey, who I have known and respected for a long time. I am sincerely shocked and saddened by his reaction.

Frankly I find it very odd that he first insults my books and then attempts to take credit for writing them. His position is indefensible.

All I can say to Sock Monkey and his threats is, "Bring it on!" I will not be silenced by the likes of you.

P.S. Don't forget about my appearance on February 1st (Sunday) at Dharma Zen Center in Los Angeles. All information is in the post just below this one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FIELD TRIP REPORT and CHANGES IN SATURDAY MORNING SCHEDULE and TALK AT DHARMA ZEN CENTER FEB. 1st


I've made some changes to the Saturday morning zazen schedule at Hill Street Center. These are posted on a link that's over there to your left.

I'm trying a little experiment. For the next few weeks we will do one 40 minute period of zazen followed by a short chanting service. I want to see how that works out. If it's a bust, we'll go back to two periods of zazen with no chanting.

Last Sunday a few of us made a field trip to Zenshuji in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo district. Zenshuji is the Soto-shu's official temple here in LA and their practice is closer to what you'd find at a Soto temple in Japan. The zendo there is in a basement and the zazen meetings are at 8 AM on Sundays so there's very little noise -- unlike Hill Street Center where you always hear traffic and people and sometimes huge hordes of children in the playground next door. It's also set up like a real zendo, which gives it a very nice atmosphere, whereas HSC is basically a reconverted living room. They do a brief chanting ceremony, much like most Zen temples. I enjoyed it, so I thought I'd try one at our place.

I've been to chanting ceremonies at other places before, like San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara and other places I've visited. But mostly these are crowded church-like affairs that sort of give me the willies sometimes. Zenshuji did the same kind of services I'd seen elsewhere, but with a much smaller group. I think there were 7 or 8 of us down there. It was nice. I recalled the chanting services Nishijima Sensei used to do once a week at his place in Chiba Prefecture (the first Dogen Sangha). I thought it'd be kind of nice to do this and see what happens.

I also know some people are intimidated at the prospect of doing a whole hour of zazen. But since zazen is the key to the practice, I'm only cutting it down by 20 minutes. A compromise.

I think it's good to visit a number of practice spaces if you can. I've noticed that people who attend just a single teacher's practice often develop a slightly warped attitude (and this includes people who attend only mine, maybe it goes especially for people who attend only mine). I'm not a fan of the practice of running around from meditation center to meditation center picking and choosing the parts you like of each one's practice and rejecting anything that bothers you. I know a lot of teachers out there make a good living offering such cobbled together practices. But I've never seen one of those that had the least bit of value. They're always very nice and completely undemanding. Sweet and useless, like high fructose corn syrup.

On the other hand, it's traditional to visit as many teachers as you like until you find one that suits you. Dogen did this as did a lot of the great teachers of the past. Once you find the right teacher it's best to stick with that teacher even if you don't like everything she or he does or says. The one that suits you won't always be the one you like best. Naturally if they start mixing up cyanide flavored Kool Aid it's probably time to go. But it's not good to jump ship just because certain things bug you. It's good to get bugged sometimes. Often that's exactly what you need. Remember the thing that bugs you is never solely "out there" in your teacher. In a very profound way these are things you create yourself even when they appear to be coming from someone else.

So anyway, it's good to check out other ways of practice and see how they really do things. You'll always be surprised. I know I always am.

Speaking of which, on Sunday Feb. 1st 2009 I will be giving the Dharma Talk at Dharma Zen Center at 1025 S. Cloverdale Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90019. The schedule is as follows:

10am- Morning Bell Chant
10:25am- Sitting
10:55am-short break
(between)11am-11:05am- Talk

This is a Korean style Zen temple and they do things a little differently from how we do them at HSC. Come along and check it out.

Last things: I'll have copies of my new book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate for sale at Hill Street Center on Saturdays. So if you want one, you can buy it direct.

I've heard that the book is now selling some places. Somebody said they got theirs from Amazon and somebody else told me she bought one in New York City. So go look for 'em!

PART 2: THE GHOST AT NUMBER ONE


I just saw that Zen Wrapped in (etc.) is #1 in Amazon's category of Dharma and #3 in Zen (just after Thich Nhat Hahn and Shunryu Suzuki).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BOOK TOUR and WHAT'S YOUR NEW BOOK ABOUT

Some stuff happened yesterday I heard. Some government thing or whatever. Buncha people listening to a speech...

I'm so tired of hearing about it. Look, every God damned day is a historical day. Every God damned day the world changes forever. I know there's some pretty cool stuff going on, what with a president whose dad was from the country I called home in my childhood and all that. Plus he has a Klingon name. Good. Fine. OK. I GET IT.

Enough.

Phew.

ANYWAY, I'm still setting up World Domination Tour '09 (my book tour) and looking for venues. Right now I have some potential gigs in Portland and in Saskatoon probably in late April thru late May. It would be nice to fill in some stuff between in Seattle, Vancouver BC and anywhere else up there in the Northwest. So if anybody's got any ideas, please write me at spoozilla@gmail.com.

If anyone knows a booking agent that would be nice to have.

One of the things I keep getting asked lately is, "What's your new book about?" I always have trouble answering this one. When you ask anyone who makes some work of art what it's about or what genre it falls into they have a hard time answering. Everyone knows the old cliche of the band with three lead guitars, a giant fire breathing skull prop and a bank of Marshall amps who claim they're not heavy metal. Same with me.

It's a Zen book, I guess. That's where it'll be filed anyway. Although I was very gratified when Book Soup in Los Angeles filed Sit Down And Shut Up in the music section just after its release. They later moved it to "spiritual," which bummed me out. Such is life, though. It's about my mom dying, my grandma dying, my job ending and my marriage falling apart. It's also as much as this about the Dharma and how that worked into all of these things. I got fed up with Zen books that ignore real life and pretend we're all just sitting on mountain tops being beautiful. That's a lousy fantasy and it needed kicking in the teeth. Nobody was doing it, so I had to.

The other day I watched the Star Trek episode The Enemy Within. In this episode, Cpt. Kirk is split into two halves, one "good" and the other "evil." The "good" Kirk is easier to deal with, but he can't make any decisions and gradually begins to lose command. As Mr. Spock explains it, "What is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see here indications that it is his negative side that makes him strong, that his 'evil' side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength."

There's another scene in which they're debating whether to tell the crew what has happened. Spock says (and this is from memory, Star Trek geeks feel free to correct me), "You are the captain of this ship. You haven't the luxury to be seen as anything less than perfect. If the crew sees you as less than perfect they lose faith and you lose command."

This also figures into the nature of the book. I think a lot of spiritual (forgive the use of that term) teachers believe this. They believe that they have to put on a front, to be seen as perfect, that if they are seen as anything less their followers will lose faith in what they teach. This, I think, is the basis of a lot of what goes on in the world of religion.

Of course, none of these teachers really are perfect and when word gets out about their imperfections, sure enough their followers lose faith and all heck breaks lose. If anyone wants to know how this has worked in the Zen world read Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Centeror The Great Failure: My Unexpected Path to Truth. I won't rehash those stories here. Basically they're about what happens when folks who see Zen teachers as perfect beings find out they're not.

I've already had problems with people whose mental projections of me don't match what I really am or what they believe I ought to be and who experience tremendous disappointment and anger as a result. Some of this is in the new book. I've watched this same stuff happen with my own teachers as well. It seems almost a rite of passage.

I don't know if Mr. Spock is right about captains of Starships. Perhaps he is. I don't think this logic applies to Zen teachers, though. It's vital that we present ourselves realistically. It is impossible to present yourself completely in any book and I haven't tried. But what I have tried is to present the bare facts. I decided that if someone was going to write a Shoes Outside The Door or Great Failure type book about me, it was damned well gonna be me who did it first. I've dug up dirt on myself I guarantee nobody else could possibly have found. And hopefully I've also dug up some deeper truths than they could have discovered either.

I don't know how the book will be received. I imagine a great many readers will hold on to their fantasies. They'll read my account and think, "Well Brad isn't the superman I was looking for, maybe someone else is." They will be wrong. But they'll have to find that out themselves. And that will be much more painful.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD

I'm in the Denver airport now, where they have no WiFi at all. Not even the pay-as-you-go kind. But I have this magic thingy that accesses the cell phone waves so here I am. Ha! Actually I've never seen the movie Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (referenced in the title). But I was on TV in Denver once. Never got a tape of that one, though. So I have no idea what it looked like. I was here last year when I did some speaking gigs in Boulder. That was fun. Hey Boulder! Have me out there again!

I wrote about the Boulder gigs in my new book. And speaking of that self-same new book, I just got a printed copy of it. Scary! This is definitely the most terrifying book I've written yet. To me, at least. Anyway, this means the books are now printed up, so they could start making their way into stores any time. The official release date is February 14th (it's the perfect Valentine's Day gift). But the way publishing works is that those release dates are just approximates.

I mentioned the death of Patrick McGoohan in my last post. I wanted to mention another important passing in this one. Dave Day, electric banjo player of The Monks passed away on January 10, 2009. The full story is here. The Monks invented punk rock ten years ahead of time with their 1966 LP Black Monk Time, released only in Germany at the time. The CD version is, fortunately, now available for all to hear. So go get yours today.

The Monks record was just a rumor to me for years. I'd read about it. But copies never showed up anywhere. Or when they did they cost several hundred dollars. I finally heard the CD in the mid-nineties and it was too intense for me to listen to it all the way through the first time I tried. And I played bass for Zero Defex! This was mighty massive pounding punkrock long before the word was even invented. In fact I'd say some of that record has yet to be matched by anyone for sheer in-your-face-ness. No wonder they broke up after just one album. If you ever needed proof that certain artists can see into the future, this record is it.

I just saw a really great documentary about the band called Transatlantic Feedback. You might be able to get it through The Monks official website. Unfortunately the producers of the film have been removing videos of The Monks from YouTube. This is an extraordinarily silly move on their part because those videos would have promoted their movie like nothing else possibly could have. I'd love to have linked to one here, but now I can't. Sorry.

I'm on my way to Dallas to visit my dad there. Nobody e-mailed me from the area, so I guess I won't be visiting any Zen centers while I'm there. I wonder if there even are any. I know the Sokka Gakkai people have a place in town. You can read in my new book about how I discovered that following my mother's death in the Dallas area in 2007 (look how many plugs I'm getting in today!). I'll be back in Santa Monica by Saturday, though, for those brave souls who may want to come do some zazen.

My flight's boarding soon. I'll report back from Dallas later. See ya!

ADDENDUM:

Look! I found a video of The Monks that escaped the purge...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

PATRICK McGOOHAN R.I.P.: BE SEEING YOU!

I just put an obituary for Patrick McGoohan up on Suicide Girls.

My first Zen teacher, Tim McCarthy introduced me to McGoohan's TV show, The Prisoner and I haven't been the same since.

Monday, January 12, 2009

NEW SG ARTICLE: BUDDHISM IS NOT SPIRITUALITY

My new Suicide Girls article is up now. It's called "Buddhism is Not Spirituality."

Also I have revamped my YouTube page extensively. There are now a ton more videos from lectures and suchlike up there, for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing. Plus a Zero Defex performance where the bassist is wearing Buddhist robes...

I'm still adding stops to my 2009 World Domination Tour (gotta think of a new name). The link is to your left. If you want to arrange a stop in your neighborhood, please contact me and we'll talk. The e-mail address is also on that page.

I want to continue discussing this "roshi" business. But I think the matter of Buddhism and spirituality is a lot more important. But just so you know, when I say something like "I am a roshi" or "I am a Zen Master" I'm trying to be ironic. Please don't call me either of those things. More on that later.

As far as the idea of spirituality is concerned, there's one thing I cut from the Suicide Girls article for the sake of space. I can accept the word "spirituality" being applied to Buddhism in certain cases. For example, it's certainly not a secular philosophy. So if your only choices are spiritual or secular, I'd probably go with spiritual. Also it does address spiritual matters, just not to the exclusion of material matters. Words seem to sometimes have as many definitions as there are people who use them, and the word "spiritual" is especially tricky. Still, in general Buddhism is not spirituality.

ONE MORE THING! I will be in Dallas, Texas from January 19 - 23. It's a family visit. And it's too early for book promotion. But if anybody wants to try and set something up for later, or have me come to some Zen group or whatever during the week, let me know at spoozilla@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

MY ZEN PEDIGREE


The subject of my Zen pedigree has come up a few times recently. I’m sure some of you will remember when Bruce Lambson, Director of the Big Mind Big Heart Institute said I was “not yet even a Sensei” whereas his boss was a Roshi*. While I’ve been making the rounds trying to set up some speaking engagements it came up again. A Zen center someone was trying to talk into booking me for a speaking engagement asked to know if I had permission to teach and said my blog wasn’t very informative about such matters.

OK. Well, now it is. The little profile over to the left now includes a brief rundown of my Zen breeding chart. I do have “permission to teach.” In fact I was actually kind of strong armed into teaching when I didn’t really want to. But that’s a whole other story that I’ve already told in my first book. I have Dharma Transmission from Gudo Wafu Nishijima, who in turn received Dharma Transmission from Renpo Niwa, who was at the time the head of the Soto sect in Japan. My papers are all in order should the Zen Gestapo ever collar me and demand to see them. I wear my brown rakusu and kesa with full impunity. Not very often. But I do. And contrary to Mr. Lambson’s assertions, I am officially a roshi.

Although I’m being kind of snarky about this stuff, I do understand why it matters. The institution that asked about my permission to teach has various affiliations as well as its own good reputation to uphold. They wouldn’t want just any old riff-raff to stink up their hallowed halls. And there are indeed a number of colorful characters running around designating themselves as Zen Masters and suchlike who claim to have received their transmissions in dreams or from disembodied spirits or who, when asked about their lineages simply decline to answer at all. No reputable Zen center would want to suffer the embarrassment of having invited someone to speak at their place who later turns out to be a phony.

The matter of lineage is a serious thing in Zen with a very long history. The legends say the line of Dharma Transmission has been unbroken since Buddha himself transmitted to his student Mahakashapa 2500 years ago. There’s certainly no way to prove the historical accuracy of that story. Nonetheless most folks in the scene believe it. I believe it too.

But what does it mean? That’s a whole different matter. Because there are duly transmitted Zen teachers who have all the proper paperwork but who are truly awful. I won’t name names here. And there are people who don’t claim any Buddhist lineage at all who can run rings around most of us with credentials, like U.G. Krishnamurti for example.

I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means I’m part of the club, whether the club wants me or not. I’m also part of the club whether I want to be or not.

The club, as a club, functions pretty much the way the Elks or the Free Masons or the Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo function. There are little secrets known only to members — none of them very interesting in the case of Zen, by the way. There is a social network available only to the higher ups. There are little perks you get for being part of the administration rather than a mere member of the rank and file. There are favors the other members of the club will do for you. There’s a chummy atmosphere when everyone gets together. And so on and on.

While some folks who’ve attained the rank I have within the club are pretty proud of that fact, I tend to be fairly embarrassed about it. I’m not the only person who doesn’t wear his Zen status like a shiny red badge, by the way. I’d say most Zen teachers are pretty humble and try their best not to get too cocky about the whole thing no matter how much their students would prefer them to. Those who enjoy rank and status tend to make themselves more visible, as people who enjoy rank and status are prone to do. But I don’t pay them too much mind myself.

As for myself, I feel it’s important to own up to what I’ve done. Whether it was a momentary lapse of good judgment on my part that caused me to accept a position of rank or whether my teacher was senile and had no idea what he was doing (as some have implied, unfortunately it's not true) or whether it was a real step in the direction of establishing the Dharma, the deed was done. I didn't ask for it. But I said "yes" to it, which makes me just as guilty. I had the ceremonies and signed the certificates. I’ve been pretty public about it, I think, having written a trio of books on the subject. Yet I’ve tried not to hammer people over the head with it every chance I get, for example by having folks address me as “His Holiness” or “the Venerable” or any of that stupidity.

Hierarchies are a fact of human life, as silly and as phony as every last one of them is. Zen has them too. One hopes that hierarchy is Zen society is followed only to the extent that it is logical and practical. For example, when you need someone to lead a chanting service or you want to acknowledge the hard won spiritual growth of a particular individual so that you might better learn from that person. Unfortunately there’s always a certain amount of silliness involved when you get into this business. Hopefully we remain as aware of this as we can and make efforts to transcend it. In Zen there are some traditions established to try and cope with this matter. For example, when a monastic student rises to the rank of shuso or “head student” he or she also becomes the monastery’s official toilet cleaner.

Since there are people out there who wonder about my rank, I’ve decided to make that information more easily available than I have in the past. I do so because it’s expedient and useful. Ultimately these designations don’t mean shit.

I remember when I realized this very clearly. I’d just started working for Tsuburaya Productions and was pretty amazed to be in the company of people I had admired from afar for a very long time, people like Noboru Tsuburaya or Koichi Takano. Yet when I traveled with them I noticed that when they were inside that body of people who knew who they were they’d be treated like royalty (and milked every minute of it for all it was worth), whereas when they stood on a crowded subway platform they’d be bumped and jostled just like anybody else.

I feel sorry for people who get so well known that they transcend that experience and are always treated deferentially. Celebrity spiritual masters must lead a very surreal life, in which it’s a daily struggle just to maintain their simple humanity. I wonder if anyone can really do that? It’s not something I think will ever concern me personally, thank you Jesus. But I am very wary of our current crop of Buddhist superstars. They seem about as valid to me as Top 40 rock bands. Occasionally a bit of truly worthwhile music makes it into the big leagues, like The Beatles for example. But most of what makes the top of the charts is just calculated schlock. It’s the same with the world of Buddhism, sadly.

So there you have a long-winded and probably fairly useless justification for why I’ve suddenly started mentioning my Zen rank on the top page of this blog.

Big deal.


*Here’s the quote in full in case you don’t want to look it up: “I find it ironic and bizarre that a kid like Brad Warner, with a few years of Zen experience, puts himself out there as a ‘Dharma Punk’, which is to be taken I guess as some revolutionary new thing, and then goes on to rip on a guy who has 37 years of Zen experience, and is a Roshi, (Brad is not yet even a Sensei). Genpo Roshi has literally thousands of students, has written 5 books, and is well respected throughout the world.”

Sunday, January 04, 2009

ZEN ULTRAMAN EPISODE


While going through some old files related to my former job, I came across this very brief synopsis of an episode of Ultraman I proposed sometime in the mid-90s.

The episode was to be titled "Shiki Soku Ze Ku" or "Form is Emptiness." It was proposed for a series which was to have been titled Ultraman Neos. Eventually Ultraman Neos was shelved in favor of a show called Ultraman Tiga. My episode was never produced.

This version has been rewritten for a proposed Ultraman novel, which would have featured the characters from the original Ultraman TV series (the one that was shown on UHF stations over here in the US in the Seventies). The novel never happened either.

What I present here is from the synopsis of the novel that I planned to send to publishers to get them interested. This section would have been chapter five.

There was a lot more detail in the story proposal I submitted. But I have no idea where that is anymore.

ULTRAMAN CHAPTER 5 "Form is Emptiness"

A Zen Buddhist temple in the mountains is attacked by a monster. Ultraman appears and battles the monster. But before he can defeat it he finds himself transformed back into Hayata and held prisoner in an alien space ship. It turns out that the monster and the temple were all an illusion created by unearthly creatures to make Hayata reveal himself as the human form of Ultraman. While Hayata is imprisoned the aliens create the illusion that he is still among the members of the Science Patrol.

Meanwhile unknown flying saucers hover ominously over the world's capital cities.

In Tokyo as in the rest of the world the people become increasingly convinced that the aliens intend to attack. Hysteria builds and finally the attack comes. A gigantic creature descends from the ship and rampages through the city. Hayata, still held prisoner, watches in amazement as Ultraman appears and battles the creature.

Before the monster can be defeated, both the creature and Ultraman disappear. The city, destroyed in the battle, resumes its previous state. The face of a young girl appears in the sky. She says that the entire encounter was an illusion projected by the beings of the Galactic Federation, a group of peaceful planets throughout the galaxy. The purpose was to discover how humans would react to the presence of alien beings in their midst. Humanity failed the test and are refused entry into the Galactic Federation.

Friday, January 02, 2009

BACK FROM THE WILDERNESS

I just got back from ten days at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center deep in the Ventana Wilderness Area near Carmel Valley, California. Tassajara's annual schedule goes something like this:

Winter Practice Period
Spring Work Period
Summer Guest Season
Late Summer Work Period
Fall Practice Period
Interim

The two practice periods are zazen intensives -- pretty much straight wall-gazing from 4AM till 9PM with extra zazen thrown in during sesshins. Plus the first one you attend you gotta do 5 days of tangaryo practice, in which you're not just doing zazen all those hours, you get no breaks at all except to go potty. Oh, and you're not allowed to bathe for those 5 days. The practice periods are restricted to students only. You either pay a fee to attend these or else you work during the summer guest season to earn tuition.

The work periods are more-or-less free. You pay a $70 application fee and then you work as many days as you want (I think you have to put in at least 5). They provide you room and board. The work is not that hard and the hours are very good. You start early but you're finished by like 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. Zazen is available each morning and evening but is optional. There are no guests present at this time. Summer guest season works much the same way as work period, but paying guests are present and much of the work involves catering to them, so the hours are longer and the work is harder -- often lots harder. You get paid in room and board plus the chance to earn free practice periods.

After the Fall practice period there's an interim. This is neither a work period nor a practice period. But the place needs to be kept in something like running order. So former students and workers are invited to come down to the valley and keep Tassajara from falling to bits.

That's what I went up and did last week. It was cold. There's no source of heat in the cabins but wood stoves and I can't start a fire for sour beans. It was tough. Most of the basic survival stuff you have to do for yourself. It was lovely. Leilani and I spent a lot of time in the hot spring baths and a lot of time washing dishes.

The best part was New Year's Eve. There's no zazen schedule during interim, which is a damned shame. In San Francisco Zen Center's way of classifying stuff (Tassajara is part of SFZC), zazen is officially a kind of ceremony. Ceremonies don't happen on holidays. So there's no zazen during the winter break. Or on Sundays at their center in SF, for that matter. Screw that. Zazen is not a ceremony. I did it every day, morning and night. Sometimes alone. Saying zazen is a ceremony is like saying toothbrushing is a ceremony. Whoever came up with that classification should be smacked with a big kiyosaku. Which is not to badmouth SFZC in all aspects. I mostly like the place a whole lot. They just have a few bass-ackwards ideas. No doubt about it. But I digress.

I was talking about New Year's Eve. The one time there is scheduled zazen during interim is New Year's Eve. They sit from 7PM - 9PM and ring the bell outside the zendo 108 times to announce the new year to any local squirrels, deer, raccoons or mountain lions who might be listening. Then afterwards they have a bonfire in which you're supposed to burn something that represents a hindrance you hope to overcome in the coming year.

We mainly stood around singing bad 80s TV show theme songs and doing Mitch Hedburg routines. There were very few senior staff around, so it was mostly 20-somethings who'd arrived early for the Winter practice period. A fun group. I often wonder what drives a 25 year old way into the mountains to stare at walls all day. Though I shouldn't wonder too hard. I probably would've done it myself if Tassajara hadn't been several thousand miles away when I was that age. I'm sure it builds character and all that.

So anyway, that's what I did.

I'm still booking my 2009 book tour. The current tour dates are at this link, which is also conveniently over there on your left at the top of the links section.

In addition to these I have some tentative bookings in Austin, Chicago and Atlanta.

I am looking for more gigs in the NYC area or the East Coast in general in late March or early April.

I am also hoping something will come up for the following cities:

Dallas, TX
Portland, OR
Detroit, MI
Seattle, WA
Akron or Cleveland, OH
Vancouver, BC
Anywhere else in Canada

...or for that matter pretty much anywhere that anyone will have me.

Write me at spoozilla@gmail.com if you have any means by which to make a gig happen.

Zazen will be as usual on Saturday Jan. 3, 2009 at Hill Street Center. Info on that is to your left. See you there!