Zen at the Edges of Tinseltown

Zen at the Edges of Tinseltown October 8, 2018



So, today, Jan I took our pretty regular stroll down to the beach in Long Beach.

As we walked past the big Life guard central station we were taken aback to see that it was now the headquarters for “Malibu search and rescue.” I’d long had my suspicions about Malibu, but that they had actually invaded us and taken over our beach seemed pretty aggressive. Then we looked down the parking lot and saw the traditional set up for filming. Rows upon rows of large white trailers, some tents for dinning, various kinds of vehicles, etc, etc. (Of which I do love their fancy air-conditioned portapotties most of all. Just saying…)

Ah, the  joys of living at the edge of tinseltown. It’s a rare month when the white trucks are not parked somewhere in the neighborhood and some street or other is blocked for some filming. That little scene in Lalaland with the aspiring actresses dancing down from their apartment building was filmed a block from our condo. Fascinated by the Malibu signs and such I asked a guard, they never have signs up, who told me they’re filming a pilot for a show to be called Malibu Rescue. As we walked along the way I strained to see Mr Hasselhoff or Ms Anderson or younger versions but among the bevy couldn’t make out who were to be the stars. They all looked pretty young.

Now, I have to admit my first thought was it looks like some nice union jobs. Lots of people doing various things and getting a decent paycheck out of it. The stars, of course. But, tons of extras. Crew. Guards. Cooks – there were two grills fired up. Cleanup. I like that. And, that made the think a next thought. I guess I kind of like living near what we out here call the “Industry.” I admit I like not being right up against it, but just down the coast a little brings in just the right amount of proximity and distance.

And then my third thought.

There’s been a fair amount of conversation in the social media version of our Zen world of late about psychedelics. it led me to reflect on makyo. And, well, it all turned for me on thoughts of reality and unreality and the mysterious mess in which we live and breath and take our being.

As a writer on Zen I find I have given a lot of attention to institutions. We are, after all, at the infancy of Zen Buddhism rooting in the West. And it is rooting whether shallowly or deeply. And paying some attention to institutions is about wanting those roots to go deep. But, my real passion, the reason I practice, are the gifts Zen brings: a deep way of seeing the world and the human heart coupled with a basket of disciplines to bring us to that way of seeing and then living into it.

My own life is well past the establishing of practices. They are very much a significant part of who I am. I am also ordained in the mysterious and not entirely satisfactory Bodhisattva system that arose a thousand years ago in Japan and has been mutating its way ever since. And, now I am looking at what I kind of hope will be the long decline.

My practice today is one of integrating the experiences and the changes in my life as I age, as I become less a part of the great conversation and more and more focused on just living into the whole mess. I am fortunate to be able to catalog this and that writing it down helps my own practice. And, I hope, maybe helps some others.

But in the moment, here and now, living and practicing in lovely Long Beach and the OC, all in the shadow of Tinseltown, how can I not think of the real and the proximal, of dream, and manifestation.

Yesterday I walked down to the beach in Long Beach. Today, I walked down to the same beach, and its Malibu. And like old Zhuang Zhou’s story, I wonder which is the real place. Our invitation on this practice is to loosen our death grip on our story of reality. To let go just enough for the real to appear. And, it appears as something not quite solid, not quite permanent. Slippery. Like a dream, like flowing water…

Nothing to grasp.

But wonder piles upon wonder, dancing in, dancing out…

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