The lanky grass was dry under the maple tree and the ground sloped downward perfectly toward the west and facing away from the humming downtown. The weight of my zafu made that familiar swishing thud as the buckwheat hit the ground. But this time was a little louder and more vivid, like my first time in a zendo.
I reached into the blue velvet bag that I had prepared for this moment. The bag came with my motorcycle helmet. I methodically took out the candle, the small bell and tiny striker, the sandle wood incense and holder. I put out my rust colored hat with salt lines from sweat with an index card inside. It read: "Good Karma $1 for Conway Community Sangha or Give one to the place you love."
The nervous pounding thumps of my heart almost drowned out the sounds of the cars and people. I thought of this idea and I wanted to follow through.
As each item made its way out of the bag my breath dove a little deeper. I pushed it out a little further. Breathing in, I could smell the coffee brewing across the street and the vanilla air freshener as it drove by in car from Rhode Island. Breathing out my shoulders relaxed a bit.
I unfolded my fraying orange cloth and placed it next to my zafu. Each breath I focused, I refrained from creating the Jamie that I know, the one that would be embarrassed to practice zen in public. Bowing in public?
Jamie is a Berlin boy. He's a tough mountain man with a beard. He's a skier, a hiker. There was a time in his life he frequented bars and had a group of friends to get drunk with. Jamie's name has been under the front page photo of the local paper for almost 20 years. People know me.
But, that's not really me. None of that is. I lived those Jamies and they are included in this moment but the truth is, this moment is creating a whole new Jamie. A whole new all of us. I can be open to it, to this moment, to this new Jamie. Mujo called him Daikan.
The maroon rakusu that I sewed lays flat on the cushion. A sudden bead of sweat formed on my brow and my breath became shallow as I leaned over to pick it up. It felt like the moment before jumping off the rock at Emerald pool.
I just did it. I breathed deeply in and took a long time to breath out, pushing it all the way out. I touched to my forehead the green pine needled embroidered on the neck piece. Then, I just put it on in Schouler Park on a Friday evening in front of everyone. In front of God.
Bowing to the small buddha on the orange cloth, I lit the tea light and the green stick of incense. Then turning and bowing to my cushion I plunged into the lucid water of practice as I took my seat.
Bernie Glassman called these type of "out of our comfort zone" actions plunges. Bernie was Mujo's teacher and he transmitted his dharma to her. Mujo will transmit it to Daikan if we finish our practice and study. I don't think I can bow sincerely enough or realize all this clearly enough to deserve that. I vow to keep coming back nonetheless.
The sounds of traffic mixed with lowering voices as they passed by me sitting cross legged under the maple tree. Like I was some kind of Buddha, some center of peace. Daikan sat there.
A man dragging cigar smoke behind walked by and it smelled like Bernie.
A voice said "namaste" behind me. I bowed. Then I turned to see who was giving the first "Good Karma Dollar." It was a glowing beautiful young woman. She looked like a yogi."Come sit with me" I said and she said "yes, maybe." I thanked her and turned forward again. Staying with my focus on awareness.
Chills flowed through me, into the ground and up the tree. Then some giggling teen sounding boys were going past and a voice said "you say namaste." One giggled namaste and put a dollar in the rust colored hat. I cried.
It seemed like I got very few breaths in that half-hour. It also seemed like I had been there forever. It felt like right action. It felt like it was my only action to truly share this dharma. This sense of atonement and joy of being. Later I told Kim I know what I need to do now.
On Sunday morning in front of the assembled sangha, I bowed and handed over the first two "Good Karma Dollars" to Jay who is treasurer. It was as if I had two whole galaxies in my hands. More than that. I wanted to split them up into billions of pieces so every human being, all beings could have this relief. Those two dollars were even much more valuable than that.