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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Don't Kill the Buddha on the Trail

I met Jason at a Zen group, 24 years ago.

I wasn't even interested in Zen, at the time. I was just looking for a group that did spiritual stuff, i.e. meditation. They'd do their thing and I'd do mine. I'm not sure what I was doing except sitting still for 30 minutes at a time. Eventually, I found Zen.

I haven't seen Jason in 17 years. He was at the birth of our son, but then I went one direction to start a family, he went the other. Next thing you know, 17 years go by.

In the turbulence, so still. So present. (Linville Falls)

A week ago, we got together to hike the mountains in North Carolina, a halfway point between our homes. I arrived at the campsite first and have a couple hours to kill so I hit the trails of Linville Falls. The weather is beautiful and the views glorious. I'm an hour up the mountain when I pass a small contingent of folks, one of which is a Buddhist nun decked in full regalia: orange robe, shaved head, eyes thoughtfully downcast.

Okay. All right. A Buddhist nun, hiking. A Buddhist... when do you ever see a Buddhist nun... hiking? EVER?

I think that odd.

Jason arrives. I'm quickly reminded 17 years has passed. His beard half gray, eyes aged. He still flashes the contagious smile, but now one tempered with years of living. Experience. It's clear he's become a skilled counselor. We spend the next 3 days hiking. At night, we return to the camp for a cigar, talk about family, Zen practice, and all the years between now and then. The space in-between our words rests easily, contentedly.

In the morning, I drink coffee. He, tea. Then we climb into his tent for a half hour of zazen before hiking. The men camping in the lot next to us form opinions about what we're doing in there. At least, that's my thoughts. Can't say the proof doesn't seem a little dodgy.

We end the weekend at the top of Wiseman's Pass, smoking our last cigar and laughing until our guts are sore. He asks, a bit demurely, if I'd like to end with a session of co-counselling. He's told me about the process, but I'm not clear. He starts by asking to hold my hand. So here we are, two men, sitting in the grass, holding hands, talking about feelings. Cars passing.

We get in our cars. He turns left. I go right.

Maybe it'll be another 17 years. If it is, we'll pick up right where we left off.

Sometimes, time seems so irrelevant.

More on Practice: Joko BeckAH Almaas, and Bruce Tift

Foreverland is Dead (Coming soon!)

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