February 19th, 2017
I want to say that the reason why I haven’t posted anything in the six weeks since I landed at San Francisco Zen Center is because I haven’t had time to write, but that would be a pretty lame excuse. The fact is that there are 24 hours in every single day, with 60 minutes crammed into each hour and every minute packed full of moments. That’s as much time as I’ve ever had and all there will ever be. I’ve got all the time in the world, and really, it’s enough.
If there is one overriding lesson to be learned by living in a Zen center it is that time is gold. Every second between every hit of the wooden han as it calls me to zazen—the hits increase in frequency but not in urgency. They all matter equally. From the 5am ringer sprinting through the halls through to the broken tinkle of the lullabye bell inviting us to sleep, every day is stacked with clacks and bells waking us up and reminding us where we are and where we need to go. The bongs and chimes connect space and time.
If I have 45 minutes between lunch and work I need to choose how best to spend them, and I can’t waste precious time in waffling. Quickly I tune in to my body and check out my needs. Nap, walk, stretch, write, read, or lie on a park bench watching the bees? Whatever the living moment calls for, I must respond and make the most of it.
There’s always enough time—which is only as much time as there is. Twenty-four hours in every day. Zen time is precious time. Zen time is gold.
December 20th, 2016
“If you’re passing through the Bay Area,” I wrote to my Bicycle Buddha mailing list, “come visit me at the San Francisco Zen Center. Come sit zazen with me, then take me out for a fancy coffee—cuz I can’t afford lattes on monk’s wages.”
“Hi,” a friend shot back. “With an inheritance that allows you to travel to Mexico to get your teeth fixed and then fly kitty corner across a continent and then off to a zen centre for 4 months I truly think that you should give up this “cuz I sure can’t afford lattes on monk’s wages.” Read the rest of this entry »
December 15th, 2016
Machito, a local fisherman, met me at the little thatch-roofed visitors hut in San Crisanto – a ramshackle itty bitty village on the long sandspit between the lagoon and the wide Gulf of Mexico. He rolled up on his bike, with a second bike in tow for me. I droppedmy beach bag and water bottle into his basket and we bounced down the sandy path to the boat launch, followed by two mexican women in a car who were also along for the 50-peso tour of los manglares.
Machito ferried us through the mangrove forest’s clear streams, pointing out trees and termite nests and giant ferns and fishes. After a dreamy half hour we docked at the cenote and I climbed down into the cool clear water, to swim with the giant tarpon fish that washed into the cenote during the hurricane of 2004, and got trapped there and bred. I asked Machito if it was OK to swim into the mangrove stream and he said sure, just try not to touch bottom and stir up the silt. I drifted through the clear shallow stream through schools of pretty little fish. No hay cocodrillos? I called. He laughed. Read the rest of this entry »
December 10th, 2016
I did two hours in the chair today w Dr Jesus. Dr. J and his dental tag team: wife Claudia, Gina, and the lovely Mar, whose Mayan eyes I have fallen in love with over her green paper mask. That was session number 4, with two or three more still to come. I recline in the chair to a wash of Mozart, Phil Collins videos, and easy Spanish banter. No pain, no heavy drugs. Team Jesus are total pros.
I am a dental tourist. This is the main reason for my 3-week residency in Mérida, in the Mexican Yucatan. I am here, like lots of gringos, to get my teeth fixed for a smidgen of what i’d pay at home as an outside-the-box Canadian. I have standard MSP of course, but dental’s not included – I guess because, as my friend Chris says, a holdover from the day when teeth were a luxury. Read the rest of this entry »
December 5th, 2016
I am trudging down a back street in Merida, Yucatan, sucking a lime popsicle and dribbling sweat. I spot a handmade sign out front of a mom’pop storefront: Rentas Bicicletas. In the cool shade of the shop a family is stringing Christmas lights. I spy a sweet little wine-purple step-thru cruiser. Papa Alejandro cranks the seat up a bit higher for me and I am sold. I rumble off down the cobblestones, cool breeze lifting the sweat from my skin. As if it could be any other way.
But in fact, I had actually almost resigned myself to navigating Merida on foot. Cycling in Merida looked terrifying. Buses and mini-buses, diesel-spewing trucks, cars, motorcycles, horsecarts, all crammed into the teeming downtown streets. Hibbledy-jibbledy pavement, potholes, cobblestones, random piles of trash. High curbs with no curb-cuts to the sidewalk, and treacherous foot-wide gutters alongside. Careening in and out between the buses and horse carts: bicycle cowboys on bmx’s and clunky mountainbikes, plus cargo-trike vendors loaded down with water jugs, baskets of fresh bread, loads of tomatoes and pineapples. Basically, chaos – in an unknown city, in a language i barely understand. Read the rest of this entry »
November 7th, 2016
I dream of a world where people live small. It’s happening. It’s a meme.
Small houses, small gardens, small vehicles, small pleasures. Small incomes. Small needs.
My path is to live and to model that life. Enrich my networks. Take care of what I have and get rid of what I don’t need. Place myself in situations of humility and of trust: monasteries, communities, neighbourhoods, islands. You can’t be small in isolation. Living small means asking for help, accepting it, giving it back.
My caution is to resist letting my needs mushroom mindlessly. The goal is to simply stay small.
October 11th, 2016
The angry molar is gone. In its place is a stitched excavation bleeding into a wad of gauze. Before Dr. Loo yanked it out I ran my tongue over its pitted surface one last time and thanked it kindly for almost five decades of loyal service, but when he asked me if i wanted to keep it for a souvenir, i declined. It was a good long run but it’s over.
I could rant on about the scam that is the dental industry but I won’t. Well actually i will. It pisses me off that the only people who get all their dental bills paid for them are the ones who can easily afford to have their own teeth fixed. If you work for a corporation or institution you make a fat wage, plus get your teeth fixed and your glasses bought and a year off to tend to your babies. Self-employed people, or part-timers or wage slaves, have to foot their own bills and those bills are high. I’m not talking about cosmetic dentistry, I’m talking about the care we need to maintain our health and our livelihoods. It’s not easy getting a job, let alone a date, with no front teeth. But Canadian medicare covers none of it. Why? Who knows? Read the rest of this entry »
September 4th, 2016
I’m living the monk’s life in my green turtle bus, up on the bluff over the lagoon.
Wake up, chop wood and carry water, wash my panties in a pail and hang them to dry in the sun. Sit a bit, stretch a bit, watch the tides roll out and in. Out, and in. Soak some beans, then boil them slowly on the two-burner hotplate, seasoned with garden tomatoes, zucchini and herbs. Eat. Wash. Empty toilet bucket into pit. Sleep. Start again.
I wonder how my monk life will mesh with my married life … I wonder, but can’t know. The beauty is, we are grownups. We make up the rules. It is my life, it is our life, it is art: all one grand experiment.