Sunday, August 08, 2004

This Sunday morning was a little different than most. I drove into the city today for an introduction-to-Zen class and not to take my kids to look for freight trains. Because I needed to be out before A. awoke, I headed to the funky old Bywater neighborhood and arrived around 6:45 a.m. for my 8:00 class. Bywater is quite a mix of people -- hippies, contemoporary bohemians, upper middle-class gay/lesbian couples, blue-collar black families, and active-duty Naval personnel. Strangely, perhaps, suburban me felt very comfy in the funky neighborhood coffeehouse, where I sat down and started making my always-A/R to-do list for the week. Rather incongruous, now that I think about it.

Yesterday saw A., my ailing sister, and I head up to Alexandria, LA, to visit T. We fetched T., then made our ritual trip to the nearest McDonalds. A. ran in and started climbing, fully shod. T. sat down and ate French fries. I removed his shoes as he ate. Sure enough, the shoe nazi appeared and walked through the playland, checking every kid in sight for shoes. She even bent down to look under tables to ensure that all of the kids were unshodden. Fortunately, A. was deep inside the intricate maze of plastic tubes and slides and could not been seen with his felonious footwear. Unfortunately, A. became overloaded and completely freaked out inside the climbing tower. We had to leave immediately. My sister followed with T., and was more upset by the way some of the other diners looked at us than she was by A.'s obvious neurological/psychological issues. She kept on about how those people looked at us, so I just said "fuck 'em. You develop a thick skin pretty quickly." We then went to Target, where the kids behaved very well. We then made a spur-of-the-moment trip to my aunt and uncle's house 15 or 20 miles from Alexandria. A. & T. went straight upstairs to the playroom that my relatives keep for their own grandkids. The boys had a great time up there, so I stayed there about an hour or so longer than I had anticipated when we decided to go there. On the way home, A. discovered that Lea's pie store has a kids' play area in back. He attempted to steal some of the toys, and our struggle over that ended in another tantrum that ended when we got to Burger King.

The Zen course this morning was fascinating. Of course I've been sitting all wrong, but that didn't surprise me. We had a quick class, then helped set up for the lunch we would have after the actual Zen session. Once the session started, we sat facing the wall for half an hour; did walking mediation for 10 minutes, then sat for another half an hour. You're supposed to focus only on your posture and your breath; if you do that, the mental aspects of zazen are supposed to take care of themselves. Physiologically, proper posture alters the bloodflow to different parts of the brain, allowing underused parts to get worked out. Anyway, keeping the position was difficult for me, so it was good to have a disciplinarian in the room to straighten me out. It was all very Japanese, with lots of bowing, incense, and lying prostrate. We also did some chanting, in Japanese, that was designed to teach us proper breathing technique. Afterwards, we had a great lunch that a resident student at the facility prepared for us. The lunch included pepperoni slices and wine, two things I had thought were off-limits. I guess they aren't at this dojo. I can't go there for zazen terribly often, but I do plan to make it there several times a year anyway.


6 comments:

Ann said...

Sounds like a fulfilling and interesting and positive morning. We had our annual "early morning seminary" sacrament meeting today. Yawn.

I have asked DH if it would bother him if I attended another church. He said yes. Damn. Your place sounds just awesome.

Can I afford to live in Bywater? What are the boundaries? Sounds like a great place to me!

Miranda said...

Your post reminds me that I have this book, "Encyclopedia of Buddhaism" that I want to dig out and read. Unfortunately, the clutter monster in the garage apparently has ate it since I can't find it anywhere. I hate my garage, all the boxes we never unpancked are in there and if we had a half a brain between us, we'd just throw it all away.

But your morning sounded really, really, really cool and interesting. Bywater sounds like somewhere I'd feel at home in. Taking mental vacation there now to avoid thinking of toddler who is still awake at midnight....

Anonymous said...

This seemed to be a subtle contrast of two cultures: the comtemplative life of Japanese Zen and the sensory overloaded life of American McDonalds.
The "Bywater" culture sounded cozy to me too.
-Brenda

Miranda said...

That's it, we're all starting some kind of post-DAMU commune in Bywater. :D

Ann said...

Most of the places for sale in that zip code are multi-family. I only saw one single-family place actually IN Bywater for under $200K ($189,000, to be exact).

Randy, we have to talk about relocating soon. I'll call you.

Heather said...

have you ever tried pilates/yoga? i find those soooo relaxing, for a lot of the same reasons.