Friday, June 26, 2009

Zen of a Traveling Salesman

Perhaps this won’t be the most interesting or exciting of topics but I feel it could be of some potential help in someway, someday to someone who may choose to read it. Nearly a year ago I began working as a sales representative for the American branch of a Japanese company in northern New Jersey......
The position is in sales, and contrary to my prior education and experiences, it requires my efforts and attention to be focused on matters of business.

This choice of career has required quite a few changes in the way I live my life, and as much as I fight against obvious alterations that need to be applied to schedules of sleep, free time, and weekend social life, I continue to find that habits falling under a category once self-identified as “lame”, are becoming ideals that define a healthy, peaceful, and successful life.

Intertwining with my current daily experiences as a traveling salesman, is a desire to sustain the time I spend sitting on a round, medium sized, kapok filled cushion called a Zafu. This daily practice, involves a few simple preparatory actions, some necessary to optimize the experience, and others of a more optional nature based on a personal preference that they somehow aid in achieving deeper states of concentration. The necessary actions include first selecting attire that will allow free and comfortable movement of the body into place on the zafu, as well as sustained stillness for lengthy periods of time. For me this has come to include either shorts or pants never made of jean material but either cotton or even fleece, and according to the weather some loose fitting cotton material shirt. Actually, after this has been decided, there are only two more things that must be followed in preparation for sitting in sustained, concentrated stillness. These are body position, and breathing. Other than those two things, the addition of candles, incense, chimes, chanting, and prostrations can be selected freely by the individual. I don’t feel it necessary to go into body position and breathing any more than to acknowledge the necessity of choosing either a kneeling or crossed position for the legs, a straightened back that rests all torso weight on the small of the back and allows the spine to set in its natural curved position, and relaxed breath that is expired from the stomach, through the nose allowing for inhalation that is automatic, needing no attention as the stomach is relaxed post exhale.

The above paragraph can easily be identified by those familiar with this practice of concentrated breathing as zazen. As well, anyone familiar with zen meditation may also wonder why I haven’t included the zabuton (mat for resting both zafu and knees upon) as a requirement lending to an optimized experience. In fact, I feel it incorrect to have even identified the zafu as a necessary object for use in proper seated meditation as recent personal experiences have proven to be contrary.

My work week can consist of stops by plane or car in potentially any city in the eastern half of the Continental United States. Any time I travel by either air or land, I am heavily restricted as to the additional personal belongings I can bring along due to the size, and weight of the equipment I demonstrate to interested clients in representation of the company that employs me. Within a few weeks of employment I realized the impossibility of ever traveling with a zafu or zabuton . At first, a combination of the hotel bed’s sheets and comforter sufficed to provide the resting place for my knees and sit bones. After some searching on the internet I did come across what is basically a cloth encased beach ball. Since its purchase I have had no worries about the limitations of hotel accommodations, but now had a very suitable inflatable zafu that could fit in my pocket when decompressed.

A whole new world has opened up for me over these past months. It’s a world lived on gas, crossing state lines again and again, spending nights in towns I never knew existed at a rate of $40 - $50. My solitude has become the sound of the not so distant highway, pressing deep into the darkness at the end of each breath, listening to the swish of the cars and booming roll of the 18 wheelers. Sure it can be tough to get past murmurs of neighboring TV sets and cell phone conversations sometimes. But, it is always so surprising the calm perspectives that can be brought along with the breath. Simple breath. Heart breaking breath. Holy breath.

The road calls. I’m ready to answer.

Gassho!
Nathan

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Details for the 2009 Summer Picnic

Dear all,

As you know, our sangha’s yearly summer picnic is scheduled for this Saturday, June 27th! It will start following the Saturday sit--around 1:00. For details.....


The Rutgers Zendo is quite cold and we are using heaters to keep it warm. Please bring your sweaters and jackets to keep yourself comfortable if you want!

For the picnic to proceed smoothly after the Saturday sit:

1. Please bring food item (along with ice cooler if you have) to the building located our zendo with you.

2. The front door to the building (Lucy Stone Hall) will be opened at 9AM and 10:40AM for the people who come in and store things in the kitchen.
To keep food and/or drink cool, please put them in any coolers placed in the kitchen.

3. For the people who bring dishes, please make sure to bring the serving spoons. Please keep in mind that some members in the group are vegan -- Please let Kriti know which items are vegan so that she will label them as vegan.

4. Please bring either lawn chairs or mats to spread on the grass for sitting. If it rains, it might be wet on the grassy ground - there are a few benches there that will be used for putting food. If some people can bring foldable tables, that will be helpful.

5. Please bring Tupperware and/or ziplocks to take left over food.

6. The bathrooms are not available in the area immediately close to the picnic spot. (Of course, you can use the bathrooms in the building where the zendo is located.)

7. Don't forget your camera, musical instruments, poetry, and/or stories to share!

** The directions and map for the picnic venue are on this blog.


We look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday.

Gassho,

Rumi Bauer



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Monday, June 22, 2009

Map: picnic area

To see a maps of the picnic area (between Road 3 and Postal Plaza) and directions from the sitting venue in livingston campus....please click on read more.




There is another map showing directions from the sitting venue to the picnic venue in a previous post.

Gassho!

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Picnic & an article

Dear all,

Many of us have been trying to eat vegetarian diets after having started sitting! However, there is much more to healthy and mindful eating than eating veggie burgers and beans. Here is a NYtimes article that might interest some of you. ....And are you coming to the picnic? Please RSVP even if you can't bring anything along.... Please let Rumi know soon. We are still looking for a few more people to bring various items listed in the previous blog and Rumi's email to the sangha.

Gassho!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

2-2.5 hr Rutgers sit

Here is a plan for this saturday (June 20th, 2009):

Some people want to start sitting at 6:30 AM and sit for 2.5 hours till 9 AM. But if you can join only at 7 AM, please do come around 7 AM (if possible when you hear the bell ring) and you can still sit for 2 hours. We will take a 10 minute break at 8 AM and then resume till 9AM. We can't have a traditional 3 hour informal sit at Rutgers because of some official class that needs to take place at that venue. However, some of us still wanted to sit on saturday. Read more!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Picnic: RSVP & more

Dear sangha,

Rumi has been drafted to chair the organization of this year's annual sangha gathering on 27th June after saturday sit (Thanks so much Rumi). See a video of Gary singing at last year's picnic and please bring your family, friends (and dates ;)) and introduce them to our warm sangha.
video
Please bring blankets/chairs to sit on and musical instruments, poems, stories, songs and food to share. If you're planning to attend, organize or help prepare a dish, it would be helpful if you let the us know (Rumi at rumi.bauer@yahoo.com). For a wish list of things we usually need for picnic, venue, parking & more, please click here.....


As you all probably know, a Sangha family and friends get together is being planned for Saturday, June 27th,2009. Immediately following the Saturday sit we will move our sangha party out onto the field close to Lucy Stone Hall (the venue of sitting) and then spend the afternoon eating potluck vegetarian snacks and foods and enjoying music and poetry and songs of our group members. Please bring your favorite instrument, song, poem or group activity suggestions along. Sharon and Gary have already volunteered to bring their drums and guitar (Haven't they? If not, they are drafted too!).

The venue is same as last year -- a grove of oaks across the road from 25 Postal Plaza (Rutgers Post Office). Here are directions to reach there from our Rutgers sitting venue. There is parking for 8-10 cars right next to the venue and some people can easily walk from the sitting venue to the picnic venue. In the event of rain, we will set up everything in the Lucy Stone Hall in rooms next to where we sit at Rutgers.



Please email Rumi (rumi.bauer@yahoo.com) if you know you, your friends and family are coming and include whatever you will be volunteering could do or bring. You can always decide to come at the last minute, but if you know for certain that you will be coming, it will help us organize better. It would really be a great way to introduce your family to our sangha!!!

As regards the food, here is a partial list of what will be needed in the way of food items and also other forms of volunteer support:


1. 5-6 vegetarian casserole type dishes (finger foods are also good). Anyone who wishes to make a dish is encouraged to volunteer. Please bring serving spoons along!

2. 3-4 people to make rice
3. 3-4 people to bring salads (and salad dressing) (Fruit salads, sprouts, rice noodle salads...anything ).
4. 3-4 desserts... so if you're one of those people and don't want to cook, this is another possibility.
5. Other volunteers who don't plan to cook could bring items such as dinner rolls, paper goods (paper plates, cups, napkins) plastic forks, spoons, knives, paper tablecloths, plastic garbage bags. We expect around 50 people. Last year Melanie brought china plates and cleaned then later at her house! How wonderful was that!
6. 2-3 people for drinks and filtered water
7. Some coolers (3-4) containing ice to keep drinks and food cold.
8. You might think about bringing a blanket, mats or lawn chair to sit on and, of course, your camera if you'd like to take pictures and videos.

Let's all look forward to a great sangha party!

Gassho!
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Taido & the Tibetans

Greetings to all!
Back on March 15th, a delegation of monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in southern India began a week-long stay in the Bucks County, PA area. Their tour and itinerary were, as usual, being lovingly managed by my dear friend and dharma brother Greg Schultz (Samdup Gomang) whom some of you may have met at my house following the Dalai Lama's Rutgers appearance....

The Tibetans' week began with a welcoming ceremony at Sacred Paths Community, an inter-faith congregation located in Plumsteadville, PA. Greg asked me to attend and I was, of course, pleased to do so. There was a traditional exchange of kottas, a sort of scarf given as a welcome, followed by some wonderful chanting by the monks and a brief talk, through a translator, by Geshe Lozang Samdup, the leader of the delegation. All of which was followed by that most American of religious traditions, refreshments. It was, for me, a delightful morning spent with old friends and new and an honor to somehow represent our Zen tradition.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

May 2009 sesshin


Picture from May 2009 sesshin
Some of us are back again from 7 or 5 days of pain in the legs and tiredness... coming and going! If eyes were open, one could see people sat in deep concentration, faces twisted or calm, crying or smiling! Ok, yes sometimes wriggling or snoring too .. But as always, we were all laughing and hugging at the end. Hearts were lighter, warmer and clearer. Joseph Binensztok and John Wagner from Blairstown group had their first sesshin ever.......and don't you notice a victorious smile on their faces, specially Joe in his blue T-shirt in the center! Incidentally, Joe sat right next two Joes - Joseph Smalley and Joseph Schneider. So it was Joe after Joe after Joe sitting in sesshin together - 31 Joes in all!!

One highlight of the sesshin this time was that we made our own version of daikon (big radish) pickle. It didn't have the sugar and artificial colors and flavors of daikon bought from asian stores. Some people just loved it but some didn't! :( it did wash our bowls very well! Here's the recipe -- boil the daikon in salted water such that it is still crisp and crunchy and store it in water containing lime and salt. Longer the storage time, more the acetic acid pickled flavor in the daikon!

And was it just me or there were just tons of little creatures crawling on everyone's hands and legs after kinhin? Every now and then, I would feel the tickle and pricks and a tiny dot sized red, black and yellow beings would show up or I'd need to Mu them out!

During early teishoes, Kurt talked about a book on Pali canon by Bhikkhu Bodhi -- most moving of them was the description of how when a monk inquires about the role of the sangha and friendship and companionship of awake people in following the path, Buddha said," This company is not half the path , but the entire path". Alex and Gary were a team keeping the zendo and dining hall running smoothly. Imtiaz and Karen were sorely missed after 5 days because people kept forgetting to switch the rice cookers on at the right times. Sandy made excellent dessert and at the end of sesshin, John Wieczorik silently washed the dessert bowls in the kitchen when everyone was busy hugging and chatting!

As always, please add to this your experience of the sesshin whenever you like! Add comments or add text to the post!

Gassho,

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