I'm down in Knoxville, TN at my sister's house where last night I survived the world's most devastating hail storm along with my niece Sklar, my nephew Ben, my sister Stacy, her husband Ronnie, their cats Clementine and Butters, their bunny Snooky, and their dogs Molly and Sidney. We hope their horses Ruby and Bandit made it through all right as well.
I never saw hail like that before in my life! Truly golf ball sized stuff. The house was shaking from the pummeling. I didn't take this photo. But I couldn't figure out how to get the photo I took out of my cell phone and on to the computer. It was pretty similar to this photo but without the golf ball.
I also survived a Zen retreat at Penuel Ridge near Nashville, TN. A good time was had by all.
Apparently I had a reputation around the Nashville Zen Center as some kind of hard-assed task master and general all around meanie. This is because the last time I ran a retreat there I insisted on silence within the common areas.
See... there are a lot of ways to run a Zen retreat. I have been to some where silence is the rule and all interactions have to be carried out without talking except in cases where there is no other way to communicate about a necessary task. And even then you're supposed to whisper. At other retreats there is silence except for designated times of day in certain specific locations. I've also been to retreats where people are chatting and goofing around even right in the zendo up until the bell rings. Nashville wasn't like that. But it was kind of chatty there.
Nishijima Roshi tended to run his retreats in a unique way in regards to silence. I can't recall him ever saying a word about it. However, everyone seemed to know that silence was expected. So whenever we had something to say to each other, we'd go away from the temple to talk. This is the way I like to run things. I don't insist on pure silence. But I do try to make sure that people who came to the retreat to be in silence can do so by making a rule that you must be silent in the common areas.
I'm getting to be a big marshmallow-like softie in my old age. I've come to the conclusion that there really is no set way to do a Zen retreat. So I just go with the flow wherever I happen to be. If people want to chat, I let 'em chat. Though I feel bad for the people who might be at the retreat to be in silence. If the retreat is more clearly my retreat, I'll enforce silence in the common areas. But if I'm a guest speaker at someone else's retreat like I was in Nashville, I just allow things to proceed as they do.
They like to chat in Nashville. しょうがない。It was fun. I liked it. Lots of nice people and nice Zen. Except for being covered in ticks each day. Gross!
I also survived several talks and things at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center. That was fun. I did a talk for their book group, who have been discussing my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. That was really cool. Because ZWIKDIC is what I regard as my most important book. It was largely ignored, which is a damn shame. It says things that nobody else ever has about what it's really like to be a Zen teacher in this here modern age. Oh well. I recorded the discussion. Maybe I'll get it together to put that on-line one of these days.
Speaking of books, take a look at this video.
It's all about my new/old book. I wrote it back in 1998, and then revised it over the past couple years. It's available at the following places:
http://tiny.cc/g38eg (Barnes & Noble)
I'll blog a whole bunch about it pretty soon. Stay tuned!
I've also added a bunch of new gigs on my tour page. The additions are below. But go to my tour page to find all kinds of extra info and useful links.
• May 10, 2011 (Tue) 7:00 pm Ventura Buddhist Center 901 S. Saticoy Ave, Ventura, CA 93004
• May 12, 2011 (Thu) 7:30 pm Against The Stream 4300 Melrose Ave Los Angeles, CA
• May 21, 2011 9pm ZERO DEFEX at Annabelle’s 784 W. Market St. Akron, OH 44303
• May 29, 2011 Houston Zen Center 1605 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX
• July 5, 2011 ZERO DEFEX at X-DAY Wisteria Campground, Pomeroy, OH
• July, 2011 Starwood Festival Wisteria Campground, Pomeroy, OH (date tba)
• August 6, 2011 (Sat) 9am-5pm Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group (all-day zazen) Sacramento, CA
• August 7, 2011 (Sun) 7pm Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group (zazen & dharma talk) Sacramento, CA