I went to the 6-hour Zen retreat. I'm glad I did. Meditating silently for 6 hours straight isn't exactly a marathon Zen session, no more than 6 miles is a marathon, but it's challenging enough for a novice like me. The end stretch was particularly hard, and I admit to sneaking glances at the clock, which was tricky because the clock was just a little travel alarm with its back to me, and I had to wait until I walked by it and crane my neck a little, and I probably wasn't as subtle as I hoped.
There was a teenage boy there who, apparently, also had difficulty with the home stretch, although he was graceful enough to admit it. The teenager's presence gave me hope. Everyone else is middle-aged or more. I have some notions of getting AwesomeCloud to try it when he's older, but if it's all old people, then I'll have a hard time arguing with him if he says, "Mommmmm! It's all OLD people!"
I mean, what do I say to that? It IS all old people. And, so far, one wonderfully welcome teenager.
I guess I could schlep him up to Boston for some Zen For Kids in Chinatown. Hey, Boston's not that far away. An hour on the highway and then another two hours to get inside. No problem!
(On the other hand, maybe he'll like old people. I liked old people when I was young. Some of my favorite people in the world were over 40.)
(Yes, I know, I'm almost over 40 right now. Shut up.)
Zen Teacher Jim and I had another nice discussion about the culture of Zen Buddhism and its place in modern Asia. We also tried our best to relate Zen to my life in general. I feel a little pretentious doing so. Maybe that feeling will pass. Aside from the cultural lessons, which are my primary motivation, the thing I like the very best about Zen meditation is sitting perfectly still and not talking. And not having to listen to someone yammer about spiritual philosophy. Zen philosophy is quite openly a bunch of nonsense - that's the point of it! The more nonsensical it is, the closer you are to getting it right. It's what's under the nonsense that counts.
I don't actually know what I'm talking about. Zen philosophy is hard, and from an American cultural perspective, mocking it may present undesirable connotations. Basically, I get some of it, I struggle with some of it, I'm not sure how far into it I'll end up going, and I'm determined to learn and have fun in the meantime.
At the end we had gazpacho soup, which was delicious, and the old people gave the teenager college advice. I had no college advice, although I was happy to help fill in some gaps in knowledge - such as, people who get art degrees often go on to get desk jobs and landscaping jobs, comic books are cool but I'd rather be an ornithological illustrator, and I got to define ethnobotany for them.
I think ethnobotany would make a great career for someone well-versed in Asian culture. There's so much traditional Eastern medicine that's worth exploring.