Two peppers and a tomato for a tattoo (May 2023)

Julia, the elderly woman from the last post told me a lot about her life and it was always exciting. At some point she started to connect me with her daughter Gogo because she had the opinion that Gogo should accompany me on my travels. Sometimes the strength of her opinions was pretty funny.

But when she told me that Gogo was a tattoo artist, I thought that it could be fun to meet her and maybe listen to some episodes of Julia’s and Gogo’s life from Gogo’s perspective. As I had imagined, their perspectives turned out to be very different. Sometimes these differences were funny, sometimes tragic.

Gogo and I had great conversations and together we visited friends of her and talked about different directions for her future life. She had a whole lot of ideas.

And one day she tattooed me an Enzo on my arm. Something I had been thinking about from time to time. The payment was extraordinary: two peppers and one tomato.

My first Sesshin (Zen meditation retreat) and the strongest pain (March 2023)

After the hike with Cindy I went straight to this wonderful spot I had found weeks ago when Serpentine and I were exploring Akamas.

My first Sesshin was about to start in the early evening. For a couple of months I had participated regularly in online meetings of Bright Way Zen. BWZ is an offline and online Zen Sangha (a group of Zen practitioners). If you are curious about it, just give it a try. You can just join the online meetings scheduled in their online calendar or join offline in their rooms in Portland, USA.

With BWZ I had done my first Zazenkai which is basically a one-day-Sesshin. And that had given me a taste of what to come.

In preparation for the Sesshin, I set up everything I would need so that I would not be faced with more decisions than necessary in that time and could just follow the schedule. The schedule was mainly eight hours of sitting and walking meditation with breaks for food, sleeping and some activity that can be done more easily in a “mindful way”. Things like cooking and cleaning.

The first day went along and I was sitting and following the schedule and had not too many expectations. But I enjoyed what I was “doing”. It felt like the setting of being in the Sesshin for a fixed amount of days lowered the potential for sensations like impatience, doubt etc. But of course it was a coming and going of everything there was.

On the third day my experience changed drastically when I felt the strongest pain of my life. My knees and back just hurt like crazy. I was immediately reminded of my Zazenkai when I had quite a similar experience. But this time the pain was all consuming. After a couple of hours of suffering I gave up on “trying to let go of the pain” and tried to change my sitting position while sitting Zazen. The pain changed but was just different and still all consuming. I was shivering in pain while sitting but during the walking meditations the pain dissolved. After that observation I became absolutely clear that the intensity and the suffering I was experiencing, were mostly a very convincing story my mind had come up with.

The next sitting meditation started, I sat down in my usual posture, felt pain but immediately it was not all consuming like before. And after a while even this sensation of pain dissolved. Just like that. Like the pain was a story I had believed in and now I had stopped.

This was the most profound experience I made during meditation until now. It helped me shift  my perspective on so many things.  And from that Sesshin on it feels like a companion to me.

And for some days I was really thinking if that kind of realization is what sitting is really all about.