A while back, I signed up for a Day of Christian Zen Meditation. For some reason, I thought it was a class about meditation which included a little actual meditation and a lot of lectures. I was wrong.
Realization hit me at breakfast when a man distributed the schedule for the day. There were strange words on the schedule I had never seen before: Zendo, Zazen, Kinhin. I told Mary Beth, "I didn't Google enough for this." There was also an ominous statement on the schedule that read: "Silence begins."
Before entering the Zen room, we all had to remove our shoes. A man introduced the instructor then said, "Four tables have been reserved for you in the dining room for lunch so that you will be separate from the other people who are here attending retreats. Since this is a silent day, we don't want anyone accidentally speaking to you."
Wait? What?! Silent? What the hell? I can't even talk at lunch. This Day of Zen lasts until 4:00 p.m. You're telling me I can't speak a word until 4:00 p.m.? It gets worse. The instructor then promptly informed us that not only could we not speak to people, we couldn't even make eye contact because of this experience being all internal and Zenny and stuff like that. Telling a Ransonette they cannot speak or make eye contact for eight hours is like telling a fourteen year old she can't text for a week. It's physically impossible.
The instructor went on to explain the schedule: Zazen is twenty-five minutes of silent meditation and Kinhin is ten minutes of walking. The walking is done in a straight line, one Zenster in front of the other (about a foot apart) with your hands held in a very specific way, no speaking, no eye contact.
I could have handled perhaps one cycle of the Zazen/Kinhin experience after some sort of instruction on meditation techniques. What I could not handle was Zazen/Kinhin all...day...long. No talking. No eye contact. Just Zazen and Kinhin from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. only interrupted by the impossibly silent lunch. Oh, and two tea breaks. What's the point of a break if I can't discuss The Office or The New Adventures of Old Christine?
The first Zazen began at 9:00 a.m. I began plotting my escape at 9:02. I knew that before the first Kinhin I'd be gone gone. When we filed out in an orderly manner for our first Kinhin, I broke ranks, headed for my shoes, pantomimed to Mary Beth that I was leaving and hauled ass.
I thought I was out free and clear to enjoy a normal Saturday with family and friends out in the great big beautiful noisy world when I realized that the only way to get out of the retreat center was to circle around the back of the building and drive right alongside the path where my former Zen mates were Kinhin-ing.
Feeling like the evil barbarian in Shogun, I drove my air polluting petroleum burning vehicle past the silent Zenny's. As instructed, I did not make eye contact.