Monday, May 14, 2012

zendo visitor

A young woman named Madeleine, a high-school senior at 17, came by yesterday in search of information for a class paper on Buddhism. Her mother drove her here in a black Lexus SUV.

Dressed in the muted, good-quality casual clothing of the well-to-do, Madeleine was slender as was her mother who stopped long enough to shake my hand. Madeleine was diffident and as well-mannered as her clothes. Her hair was perfectly combed. But peeking out from her left nostril was a very small, silver nose stud -- a tiny assertion of something quite personal and honest and, perhaps, rebellious.

We went back to the zendo, went through the how-to's of zazen or seated meditation, did a brief sitting, and did a brief bit of kinhin or walking meditation. Madeleine was as limber in her youth as I was creaky in old age. She slipped into a full-lotus posture without a whine. She sat still as salt. When I asked her if she had questions, she said she would call me at some future time to fill in whatever blanks she might discover.

The gossip columnist of my mind longed to know what she knew, what she thought about this small extravaganza of a visit with its novel exercises. But of course I could not know.

I remember the first Buddhist monk I met. It was quite by accident in the college dining room. We sat at the same table and chatted amiably. I didn't think anything of it and remember nothing of what was said. The monk had on robes. He had a shaved head. But we ate and talked and that was the end of it... except, of course, for this tendril of memory. Others may weave some 'karmic' significance into it all, but that's just comic-book talk from where I sit.

I would give a little to know what Madeleine thought, though -- how this adventure dovetailed with other life experiences, hopes, fears, loves, confusions ... whatever.

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