I spent the first moments of 2009 on my zafu in the zendo at the Portland Dharma Center sitting zazen with members of both Zen Community of Oregon and Dharma Rain. The silence of zazen was punctuated by 108 rings of the bell. A ring for each of the types of impediments to enlightenment.
Last year I'd spent the New Year at a women's retreat, Joy in Mindfulness. It was a very special time and I look forward to doing it again sometime. Aside from the yoga teacher training (financial and time resources are dedicated to this) and no vacation time, I really wanted to experience New Year's with my community and my beloved this year.
There was a potluck dinner to start followed by sacred circle dances led by Chozen Bays. After we settled into the zendo for Fusatsu, a ceremony where we burned paper where we'd each noted things that are impediments to our true selves, zazen, a chanting service, and closed with some sparkling cider served formal tea style in the zendo! What a full night!
CK and I made an African peanut stew from the Becoming Vegetarian book that we both like a lot and I made some matcha cupcakes, which were very popular when I brought them to a sitting night earlier in the year. Our Sangha must have agreed since both were all eaten up by the time we packed up after midnight. It was a delicious potluck dinner, I may have gotten some unexpected butter, but that may happen from time-to-time. Some of the stand out dishes were several variations of salads made with quinoa that inspired CK & I, buckwheat noodles tossed with a sesame dressing, carrots & tofu, and there was a very tasty lentil & chard soup we'll have to track down the recipe for later. Oh, and Brussles Sprouts, which we both just love!
For some people the sacred circle dances Chozen teaches are a "big snore", but I enjoy them a lot. They are simple, close and always invite a lot of shared, gentle laughter. I am pretty thrilled that CK enjoyed them too!
The only downside to a perfectly wonderful night was when I began to stiffen up and hurt a lot, from my right lower back to the ankle, during zazen. We sat a longer second period, with no kinhin between zazen periods (only a wiggle bell), and I didn't switch to a seiza bench between. They'd opened a few windows to keep the zendo cool (to help keep everyone wakeful) and I grew tight, chill, and further into pain. Always a very challenging part of my practice.
Even still, I'm used to working with the pain so it doesn't detract from events overly. Once we got home, I had some ibuprofen, hot tea and snuggled under a warm blanket until I was feeling better. Sleep will further help.
Tomorrow, today really, we're off to Eugene for a couple of days at a bed and breakfast, a little exploring, and a lot of relaxing.
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