Two days of day-long zazen retreats are done and all participants survived. On Saturday I was in Bonn, Germany leading a day-long retreat on a street called Adolf Strasse. I did three and a half hours of dokusan (private one-on-one talks) in a single straight sitting and came back to tell the tale.
It was a groovy group of fun seeking zennies. I really enjoyed the retreat. And I was wrong when I said I'd never been invited to speak at an AZI group. The group in Bonn is affiliated with AZI.
Yesterday I did another day-long zazen thing in Amsterdam. This time we skipped the dokusan. It was logistically impossible given the nature of the venue. But I did have longer group discussions to try to make up for the lack.
Another fun group and very talkative. Maybe we'll get that talk up on the podcast one of these days.
Tonight at 8pm I'll be speaking at Tegen de Stroom In in Rotterdam, Netherlands. All humans in Europe are required to attend.
Also, Monk Fish Books just told me that Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika by Gudo Wafu Nishijima and me is now officially out and available. So get yours while they're hot.
The tour has been great fun so far. But the economic aspects are not so encouraging. Here's the lowdown on that.
• My recent hospital visit forced me to cancel the highest paying gig I had scheduled in Europe. So I lost that money.
• In order to rebook the flight I missed I had to pay an additional $600.
• The hospital bills have not come in yet. But I expect to have to shell out at least $3000. I have the highest deductable in the world, making my health insurance pretty much useless unless I get into some kind of really devastating accident or something.
• Last time I did a European tour I did not have an apartment. I was homeless Braddo. This time I do. So there goes another few hundred bucks.
So I'm hoping at least to break even on this thing. It seems unlikely I'll come out ahead. If I'm lucky the tour won't cost me money. But so far it is definitely costing me money to be here.
So Gempo's out there with his three houses and his Harley collection and here's me trying to figure out how to afford a studio apartment in Akron. Which is "comparing mind," I know. But I guess I'd rather be Husker Du than one of the Spice Girls. Which is to say that integrity is something I value.
Then again, so is the ability to pay the rent...
So yesterday at the day-long retreat I got into this thought loop of trying to envision how I could get more butts in seats at my retreats. Should I have fewer periods of zazen? Maybe more interactive social type activities? Maybe give everybody free hash-laced brownies (it is Amsterdam, after all)?
If I did that, what I'd be offering would cease to be true Zen retreats. But then again they wouldn't necessarily be bad things. There'd be a bit of meditation. And maybe people would get a taste and keep it up. Maybe they wouldn't. But it would still be an honest endeavor. Thich Naht Hanh has adopted this model for his retreats. It's not a scam. It's not even really watering things down as long as you don't present it as something it's not.
If I followed that model I might be able to continue traveling and talking. Maybe I could offer a mix of Zen Lite weekends along with some real Zen retreats for those who wanted to go deeper.
And yet the prospect of doing it that way isn't so appealing. Which is not to say I wouldn't do it. It's just not the kind of idea that has me jumping for joy. It would feel a little bit mercenary.
I love what I do. I love sleeping on mattresses on the floors of people's apartments in weird cities, being accosted by their cats in the morning and trying to figure out if anything in the fridge is butter. I love talking to people who are struggling with the same shit I struggle with. I like meeting younger people (both in age and in spirit) who aren't interested in getting ahead in society, who really want to get to the core of what's most vital in this world. There are lots and lots of us all over the world. It's nice to know that.
I'm not sure I even want three houses and a Harley collection. Or in my case a collection of vintage bass guitars. Would I even take $50,000 for a weekend retreat? Offer it to me and see!
The point is, I still think that I seem to get exactly what I really want in life. It's dangerous to say that everybody does. But I sure seem to.
I seem to want to struggle this way. It makes me feel more alive.
Still, if I could just get enough ahead to afford the Beach Boys' Smile Sessions Box Set that's coming out in a few weeks...
Then again, knowing me, I'll buy it whether I can afford it or not.