I'm not really a member of Awakening Heart; more of a hanger-on. I do the transcribing and I show up for retreats and special events, but when it comes to the regular Sunday service I hardly ever get there. I'm not sure why that is, except that Sunday at 5 in the evening is kind of a lousy time to have a church service (at least if you're me). My OA gang has a monthly business meeting then and my writer's group meets twice a month right before that; and believe me, the last thing I feel like doing after being with my writer's group for two hours is sitting still and meditating. More like sitting still and typing my little fingers off fixing all the stuff that needs fixing and then plunging into the next couple of chapters. Which leaves about one Sunday a month to get down there, which is why I hardly ever show up.
Yes, I realize these are rather pathetic excuses. Hang on, they're about to get worse. I'm also not-exactly-a-member at the Maria Kannon Zen Center. I show up on the occasional Saturday and sit with everybody (Japanese Soto Zen is a whole lot of sitting meditation and not a whole lot else; sometimes afterward we all say hi to each other, but it was months before I even knew anybody else's name). I've never joined the Center or contributed the minimum monthly amount, though I do put some money in the box whenever I show up. If I had to pick a preferred meditation type, this would be it, because I go into shy mode quite often and not having to talk to anybody is kind of a nice bonus.
Now, here's the thing. Awakening Heart doesn't much care if you're a member, not-exactly-a-member, an occasional hanger-on, or if you just dropped in for the day. Everybody's pretty much invited and welcome once they show up. If there' s a Big Ceremony to join the group, I've never seen it (Buddhists are big on Big Ceremonies, but Brother ChiSing isn't). Maria Kannon, however, is another matter. Not only is there a Big Ceremony, but you have to apply to be a member, be approved by a committee, approach the teacher and ask to become his student, and then show up in front of the whole gang to be welcomed. Er, given that I have this inconvenient shy thing, let me explain to you how likely this is to ever happen. Yeah. About that likely. And so I've always wondered if I'm actually supposed to be there, or if I'm sneaking in like a thief, getting my fix o'quiet and stealing away into the night again (well, it's Saturday mornings, but stealing away into the daylight doesn't really have quite the same ring to it). Just because I scrub things doesn't mean I'm necessarily welcome, you know what I mean?
Finally, the big confession: I'm not even a Buddhist. That is, officially. There's a big ceremony about taking refuge in the Three Jewels, and I've never gone through it. I was going to, once, with Brother ChiSing, but something happened and he decided not to do the ceremony and I haven't had another opportunity since then. I'd still do it, tomorrow if somebody asked me to, but it's not like you can exactly get on the Internet and google "Who's doing the Three Jewels ceremony in Dallas this weekend" and pull up half a dozen hits. So I live like a Buddhist, I meditate like a Buddhist, I try to keep the Five Precepts like a Buddhist, and as far as I'm concerned I'm a Buddhist, but if I die tomorrow, will I still end up in Lutheran Heaven with a choir singing in four-part harmony and all you can eat lefsa and vinaterta that doesn't make you fat? Because that'd be cool, really, but, um, what about the whole wheel of samsara and coming back again and again until even the grass is enlightened? Cuz that's what I signed on for. Or would have signed on for. If somebody had given me somewhere to sign.
Okay, I have another dharma talk to transcribe. This one's about the Winter Solstice and the countdown to 2012, at which time either the world ends or the Rangers win the World Series. Later, kids.