I’m back from a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, my first in that vast, beautiful and relatively uninhabited land. Above is the sun setting over Lake Superior a few days ago, taken from a 10-mile stretch of sand beach (rare on Lake Superior) near the Porcupine Mountains. I definitely plan to return and hope to spend some time in one of the remote cabins in the Porcupines doing retreat.
But today I’m getting my bag packed for the Zen teachers’ conference that starts tomorrow night. In the past, the most rewarding aspect of these events has been spending time with old friends and I’m happy that a bunch of my favorites will be there this year.
Frankly, there’ll also be at least one who fits the “difficult person” category so I’ll have some challenges too, I’m sure.
Zen teachers, don’t you know, are ordinary people – or at least I am – and so we/I have the normal range of silliness – like the categories of favorites and difficult people. Denying the facts don’t change them. Accepting the facts leads to interesting questions about how to relate.
In addition to hanging out, there will be an agenda: ethical issues (of which there are a bunch, past and present); gender issues; transmission (including a presentation by Victor Sogen Hori, who I haven’t met but is a “favorite” scholar); and dana vs. fund raising.
These are the issues that this group often discusses and the need and interest in continuing the conversations is significant, I think, in that it points to the issues’ central role in the transplanting of Zen from Asia to the West and their unresolved position at present. Or maybe “variously resolved” is more fitting.
Personally, though, I’m most interested in picking people’s brains and experiences about two issues. First, what will Zen become in the post-peak oil period, including the likely dramatic changes in climate and economic underpinnings of our society, including present Zen institutions. What does Zen have to offer to people in such a world and how can we prepare now to be in the position to offer just that?
My book project has taken a radical turn in this direction and I’m very curious about how others see it.
Btw, James Ford over at Monkey Mind wrote compellingly about the climate issue recently. Click here.
The second and related issue is how we can transmit to the next generation, not just to other baby-boomers. What are the bright spots in the current Zen scene and what about them can be generalized? I want to reread Jiryu’s blog about this beforehand because there were lots of good ideas there. If you missed that click here.
I’ll report back early next week and (tease alert!) I have an announcement to make about some upcoming offerings and a change in direction in what I teach and how I teach it.