Sitting on the cushion, facing the wall. Eight hrs a day for the past four days. I notice that my facial muscles are clenched: tightness at the back of my jaw, tension around my eyes. Try to call up the slight buddha-like smile, thinking it might melt the furrow between my brows. Open mouth wide, crack, release. Think happy thoughts—no, stop thinking! Breathe slower. Watch breath. Relax. IGNORE the tension. Be with it, just be with it (oh shut up). Ouch. Start again… (more…)
Archive for the ‘Upaya Zen Center’ Category
This name was bestowed on me today by Roshi Joan in jukai, and it is absolutely my name. It fits just right.
‘Carmen’ is a name for spanish dancers and vamps, porn stars, video-game characters and drag queens. I’ve been wearing that handle my whole life, and it has always felt like the wrong size shoe. Too much drama. So not me. It creaks on my lips and sits badly on the page. Carmen Mills has crappy meter; it sounds like a saltshaker rolling off a table. But Roshin Carmen Mills, now that, has a nice, loping rhythm. (more…)
We are a tight little group and it is shocking when someone leaves, whether we expect it or not. They leave a hole like a pulled tooth. But soon the gap heals over, and we continue chewing comfortably through our lives.
This too is part of our practice in this little petri dish called Upaya. People come and people go. At first we are strangers, and then we get used to each others’ charms and idiosyncracies and neuroses. We quickly become fixtures in each others’ lives. But then just when you come to really know someone, to be familiar, maybe even to love them in a way—they vanish. The mailman who comes to the door every day, the barrista at the favourite coffee shop, the roommate, co-worker, partner, lover. They are always there, until one day, they are gone. (more…)
I spread out the pieces of my rakusu, in readiness for dunking in the pot of black dye. A ragbag of precious bits gleaned from the patchwork of my life, these include:
–A piece of denim from faux-bro Ki’s favourite jeans, veterans of many a forest rave we danced at together.
–A scrap from my dear departed friend Robin’s sexy black camisole, worn wildly on hot summer nights .
–Elena and Lola’s pink napkin, stained with pesto and chocolate-blackberry pancake.
–Terry’s white hanky sewn from his Cape Breton auntie’s linen tablecloth. Used to mop his face in the Tokyo summer heat. Imbued with the sweet sweat of Terry, falling in love.
–Obi-nine’s groovy Australian aboriginal cloth, patterned in snakes and bare footprints.
–A scrap of brown wool gabardine: pants worn by my dad as a dashing bachelor, then handed down and worn again by my brother Bennett in his hipster retro phase.
–Bum pocket piece from Romina’s fuzzy blue dance pants.
–A strip of chunky grey linen from Red Sara’s biking skirt. (more…)
- My head, my body, my spirit feel lighter. Passing a mirror i catch the sun glowing through my backlit ears. What hair is left is a patchwork of chile-pepper and salt. I look kind of like a boy, it is true—all that tortured femininity gone with one sweep of the clippers. But it’s ok. I feel light, and my eyes look very alive.
I made a vow that I would return to the high desert. I made my promise to the scrubby hills and the adobe walls, to Roshi Joan, and to myself. Vows are not lightly made and this one is ripe to be honoured. I’m a little terrified, tremulous, and excited. Trying to simply be ready for whatever arises, and to take it all forward from there into whatever mystery comes next. Stay calm, carry on.
In a few days I will leave for Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ll be there until end of March doing what one does in such a place: mopping floors, chopping carrots, sitting on my black cushion, wrestling with the vexing paradoxes of Zen, and picking thorns out of my bike tires. (more…)
Today I left home and arrived home. I closed up the turtle schoolbus and ferried across the Salish Sea to the Appias, home to apt. 306. I came home to my storage locker full of clothes and photographs and love letters and junk. Home to latenight sushi and East Van pride. Home to sirens and concrete, traffic and the crime. Home to Vancouver, my calling, my peeps. Home to where the homeless find home on the street. This city is my home because I made it to be so. I invented this city to mirror my dreams. My home is with the crows flying east in the evening. My home is with the crows flying west toward dawn. (more…)
Once in New Mexico I decided to go for an adventure to Albuquerque, and I asked if anyone had recommendations for what to do there. “You want to go to Albuquerque? Albuquerque is an armpit! Just move on through,” replied one car-dependent resident. Undiscouraged, I put my bike on the train in Santa Fe and rolled off into downtown ABQ. I threaded my way through the hidden neighbourhoods of Nob Hill, and over a magnificent pedestrian bridge across the Rio Grande. I paused at a Mexican bakery and a funky old theatre, and a hidden downtown alley where street folk sang soul tunes in the sun. An ancient black man in a straw hat offered me a hotdog and invited me to sit for a while, and I did. Had I driven through Albuquerque I probably would have found yet another crumbling American metropolis; just another armpit between the Interstates.
I find pockets of paradise in every place I explore by bike. (more…)