Greetings and bon jour from Montreal!
Before I go any further I have to plug two events I'm doing in New York next week. The first is a book signing at 7 pm on October 15th at the Iinterdependence Project in the East Village. Swing by, get a book, get it signed, have a grand old time.
The other is a bigger event. The following two days, October 16th and 17th, we're having a two-day non-residential retreat at the Interdependence Project in the East Village. This is a terrific opportunity for anyone who wants to get a real taste of what zazen is all about. The retreat is open to beginners, no experience necessary. It will be focused on shikantaza style zazen as taught by Dogen Zenji. It's non-residential, which means you get to go out and have a night on the town in Manhattan afterward instead of being cooped up with a bunch of Zen nerds all night.
I get sick of people who hype these kinds of things as big enlightenment orgies, so I tend to downplay them and say it's boring. But, honestly, I wouldn't run so many multi-day Zen retreats unless I thought they were truly worthwhile.
You might imagine that sitting on your own at home and staring at a wall is the same thing as joining a group of people to do it. But it's really not at all. There's a power to the practice when it's done with a group that you can't find any other way. And long sittings are a way to dive deeper into the practice. It's almost impossible to find the self-discipline to do a long-form sitting alone. When you're with a group you draw upon the shared commitment of others and what was impossible becomes easy.
I really urge anyone within the area who is on the fence about this whole zen deal to come try it out for yourself in this relatively painless way. In some strange way these sittings are actually fun. You learn a lot about yourself that you never knew. I do every single time and I've been sitting gosh knows how many per year for more than half my life. DO IT!
I'll also make myself available for private talks during the weekend.
OK. So I've been doing tons of press for my new book Sex, Sin and Zen, and each time I do an interview or a talk I learn more about the book.
The reviews have been very interesting because this time even the bad reviews are exactly the kind of thing I had hoped the book would stimulate. When I first encountered the third precept, the whole "do not misuse sexuality" thing, I was confused. I'd heard right-wing Christian nut-cases talk about what they viewed as the misuses of sexuality and assumed that Buddhists must be talking about the same thing. In spite of my first teacher's attempts to make me see things differently it wasn't until I went and lived in Japan that I found out it's not the same thing at all.
The guy who interviewed me today wanted to talk some about my "voice" in my writings. He wanted to know if I deliberately stir up trouble or if that's just how I naturally am. He talked about my radical views on sexuality and whether I was airing those just to get a rise out of people.
And I thought about how I live in this kind of funny dual world. To a lot of the people I know from Suicide Girls, the punk scene, and just life in general, my views on sexuality seem positively prehistoric. They're not radical at all. I seem like a bit of a fuddy-duddy. Then I step into Buddha Nerd Land and I seem like a foul mouthed pussy-crazed heathen waving his dick around at everybody. So I figure what's really going on is that I'm treading the middle ground.
A lot of people seem fascinated by what they see as the dichotomy between how I am when I write and how I am when I speak in public or when I speak to them in person. But I don't see it that way at all. They accuse me of inventing some kind of fake hipster persona that is not the real me. I don't think I do anything of the sort.
But all of this is really terrific because what I wanted most from the book is to get people talking about stuff they haven't really been talking about. Because this stuff needs to be aired in public. There are too many wrong assumptions going on, like my assumptions about the third Buddhist precept being a call to be just like the kids at Rex Humbard Evangelical College for the Chaste and Pure.
See you in New York City!
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Greetings and bon jour from Montreal!