I'm in Poitiers, France now. Yesterday I ran a day of Zen for 10 people at my friend Arnaud's house here. It was very interesting and very tiring.
The people who attended the event were not zennies for the most part. I know at least one of them had done zazen at a Zen temple setting before. I think the others had done zazen but only as parts of other forms of meditation. Some were students of another guy named Arnaud, Arnaud Desjardins who was an interesting spiritual teacher here in France. He was trained in the Advaita Vedanta tradition by a teacher named Swami Prajnapad. But he also sat zazen with Deshimaru. So he taught that as well. Arnaud passed away in August. So his loss is still keenly felt by his students.
Some others were students of an American teacher named Lee Lozowick who based himself in France. Lee is the author of a book called Zen Trash: The Irreverent and Sacred Teaching Stories of Lee Lozowick. They gave me a copy yesterday. I haven't read it, but I like the title. Lee passed away last year, so his loss is also still keenly felt by his students.
They were a pretty sincere group. I liked hanging out with them for the day. But this was only my second try at improvising a day of Zen Lite for people who were interested enough in zazen to want to do a day-long event but too inexperienced to feel up to handling the rigors of sitting zazen over & over & over & over for the entire day.
Lots of Zen teachers would just say, "Screw 'em if they can't deal with it!" and make the participants do a full-on day-long sitting. That's what my teachers did. That's what they'll do if you go to places like San Francisco Zen Center or pretty much any training center in Japan such as Antaiji.
But I'm trying out something new here. So far the results have been just sort of OK as far as I'm concerned. The problem is that it's too damned exhausting for me to do three hours straight of dharma discussion with a group. So I need to find other activities that will work and still not be too goofy. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
The day before that, Friday, I was the guest at a soirée (literally) held by Giles Farcet author of The Anti-Wisdom Manual: A Practical Guide To Spiritual Bankruptcy. I gave this book a glowing review last year. Maybe I'll dig that review out and put it back up here. Although I think they should re-publish it with a catchier title like How To Ruin Your Spiritual Life and a funnier cover.
I gotta run. But I've included some photos from France. The first is to prove to my friends in Montreal that the stop signs here in France say "stop" not "arret." And that Kentucky Fried Chicken is called KFC here, not PFK*. The final photo is to prove to the world that there is no such thing on the French McDonald's menu as a Royale With Cheese. But there are several sandwiches called "Royal" including the "Royal-o-Fish" and the "Royal Deluxe."
*Actually everybody in Montreal knows this already. So the photos are provided for them to show the language police up there.