And zen the next thing you know...
I had a great weekend.
On Friday night, I wandered down to the small twitten joining Ship Street and Middle Street; right in the heart of Brighton's new media zone (i.e. near the Media Centre), Jay and I affectionately christened it "Tramp Piss Alley" when looking at office space down there.
And by coincidence, the building we looked at back in 2001 is now The Bodhi Garden Centre, a refuge for all sorts of meditation, yoga and related groups. Wandering down there a few weeks back, I noticed a poster advertising zazen there on Friday evenings.
I've never done any meditation type stuff before, but Tom and Maria have often talked fondly of the time they spent doing it when they lived in London, so I've been curious to learn a bit more. And I *think* I'm right in saying it's one of those things which you're best off just doing, rather than trying to read about.
Anyhow, I turned up at 8 on Friday and said hi to the other guys there. It turns out that they're mostly aikido folks too, who run a dojo in the centre of town. It was also a bit of a special occasion - a zen nun was there conducting (or whatever the verb is) the evening. I was given a few minutes instruction into etiquette (very Japanese; lots of bowing, sitting in half-lotus, turning exact right-angles when walking) then we sat down.
The bulk of the practice was 20 or 25-minute sessions of sitting, cushion under my arse, keeping my back straight, chin tucked in, hands in a mundra, staring downwards 45 degrees at a screen. I tried (as instructed) to not think of anything in particular, but my mind was all over the shop. I've got a bit of a cough at the moment, which I spent a good 10 minutes trying to choke back. Lots of time spent adjusting my posture too - looking downwards seemed to drag my head forward and down, leaving me less then upright.
After the first session, we stood up and walked in circles for a little bit - very slowly, one breath per footstep - then sat down and stared at the wall for a bit more; then turned around and did a bit of chanting (some of which I recognised from chanting we've done in misogi before now).
After saying thankyous, I wandered off to the pub (conveniently nearby), and reaslised that I felt absolutely great. I don't know whether it was the novelty value of it all, just spending an hour being quiet, or what... but I think I'm going to wander back this week and give it another go.
After that virtuous start, the weekend proceeded well: Friday night in the pub with les freres Hoskeres, Saturday over to New^H^H^HBrokenTom's for his birthday bbq and then on to the pub to say goodbye to Rosie, who's moving to London. Sunday I went out running (I ought to, seeing as I'm notionally training for a half-marathon later this year) and then aikido in the evening, before getting home to watch England pull off a classically English performance...
Oooh and my planned trip to Japan next year seems to be taking a more defined shape: the idea was to train at Hombu dojo or out in Iwama (where apparently Hombu are running, or due to be running an uchi-deshi scheme) for a couple of weeks, then spend a few days slumming around with Julie... as it turns out, Tom and Maria are keen to go out around that time too, so we may well have a bit of a posse...