This blog is not dead … not yet. Actually, I wrote a lot since my last post more than half a year ago. Drafts, thoughts, from every day life, my Dojo and experiences at Sesshin I taught. Nothing went on-line. No article reached a final stage worth being published. When I had to decide how to spend my time between “editing” or otherwise “living”, I decided for “living”, even if it was simply doing chores or sleeping after an exhausting day with the kid.
End of the day my endeavour trying to master a frugal life with teaching Zen and Zen-Art failed. There is no way, within our society, to rent a place, heat and light it and offer a regular schedule while ignoring economic boundaries. Too many nights after Zazen I went home with an empty stomach. Too many end-of-months I had to worry how to pay the next month’s rent. Too many letters from authorities claiming I either do not run a “real business” or my “business” is making too much money. Last year, the total win of my Dojo, calligraphy sales and Sesshin was little above 1000 Euro, for easily 1000 hours of work.
It does not matter. Better than any compromise in the way I’m teaching and practising Zen and Zen-Art is getting money from elsewhere. Selling books, claiming or offering (usually fake) ranks or titles or even offering a projection screen for someone’s dreams to meet a “Master” was never my thing. If my way of teaching does not attract enough people to make a living from it, I don’t care. I won’t change it. I’m not adopting my Zen-Way to any market requirements.
That would be a too easy exercise, by the way. I get a pretty detailed feed-back concerning the expectations of my students and participants of my Sesshin. Our “feed-back-culture” seems to invite everyone to offer his or her rating, from * to *****. I never asked for it, it came upon me like rain.
Number one is the wish “to relax”. Funny enough, I never associated Zen-training with relaxation. It can be, sometimes, as a side-effect. A Zen-life is “relaxed”, on a very busy level of relaxation, though. But the Zen-training itself is NOT.
Number two is “being taken care of”. Well, yes, I take care. I provide the best schedule I can, prepare the best possible place for practise, offer the best teaching I’m able to give, 100%. But all this is nothing but to offer a chance. I don’t carry anyone through the exercise, it is not intended as an “all inclusive” tour to the Zen-Wonderland. All responsibility, step by step, stays with you!
Number three is “learning a lot/gaining insights”. The Zen-Way is long and steep, and often straight down-hill. What do you expect from a few days Sesshin, from a short introduction to Zen-Calligraphy? From two or three years coming to the Dojo once a week. This is just scratching the surface, as pleasant or overwhelming the experience might feel. Real learning requires some real engagement, over a long sustained period. Maybe a decade or two, at least.
Number four is learning from an “impressive master”. Last Sesshin a talented photographer took some pictures of us. I laughed, I can imagine now why someone might wish to see in me an “impressive master”. Maybe I have to give up wearing my beloved Japanese-style cloths while teaching, in jeans and t-shirt the same person would actually look … like me.
Number five is that “title thing”. Every now and then this topic comes up, which titles do I have, what do I offer? “Are you a real Zen-Master?” I’ve been asked last Sesshin. My reply “I’m just me, maybe not even that.” seemed not to satisfy everyone.
Now take 1-5 and put a weekend-seminar / 3 months programme together satisfying all these requirements. Easy, or? It’s not “Zen”, but who cares, in times where everything is called “Zen”.