Today, I will head northward to Zen Mountain Monastery to begin about five weeks of residency there. The first week - starting tonight - will be sesshin (a silent meditation intensive). Then I will enter the normal monastic schedule, which includes a good bit of sitting still but also includes working and playing. The motivation behind this residency (if there needs to be one beyond simply being there) is to help get a dye studio up and running. This year, the Monastery garden has been growing indigo and other dye plants with an eye to dyeing yarn and fabric that will be used to make things for the Monastery store. All of this is in effort to move away from their online store, which is no longer competitive in the age of Amazon, and to offer residents and weekend retreat participants a chance to experience something other than sitting at a computer. The trick is finding things that are doable for people with little to no skills. I figure that, if you can chop a carrot, you can dye some fabric. It is no harder than reading a recipe. We'll see!
Art practice is a big part of the training at ZMM so there will be time each week for each of us to take it up. I rarely have chosen to do visual expression as my art practice. Instead I usually write. Drawing and painting are so laden with ideas and training leftover from art school for me. It has been a big battle to get beyond them. So, at one point, I just let that go and took up writing since I have no notion of being "good" at it. It is delightfully freeing! Who knows, maybe I will work with movement this time around.
Whether we are sitting zazen or working or making art, the whole point is to turn the light around. To see our own mind and take responsibility for the whole catastrophe, as my teacher's teacher used to be fond of saying.
Let's see just how big the catastrophe really is, shall we?