I got the nod, the big OK, the permission to proceed, … Sitting eye to eye with my teacher, Michael Mugaku Zimmerman, I had ask to be ordained. I have felt this commitment growing for some time now. In fact, even though I wasn’t ready before that day, and maybe might not even be ready now, waiting for me to become any more ready seemed like only a delay of the inevitable.
I went back to take my seat in the zendo and felt wave after wave of joy wash away the time of the morning sit to an instant. The adrenaline of the moment spurred me on and I started out the door that day on my way to ordination day. I had asked my teacher when he thought a good date to plan for might be. He gave me the infuriating zen-ish answer of “When you’re ready”. I soon found the wisdom of his reply. There were measurements to take, robes and other attire to order, oryoki bowls to buy, not to mention becoming more sincere and dedicated about my practice. This was going to take a commitment of time and money and I couldn’t say how much of either.
Then there is that little detail of sewing my kesa. In our linage, new monks sew their own kesa. It is a practice that both connects us with the history of our linage, transitions us to our own future life and anchors us to the present in a single stitch, over and over and over again. I could hardly wait to start. Then the materials and instructions arrived. Oh… now what?
I forgot that I really don’t know anything about sewing. I do know how to sew a button on a shirt. However to be honest those shirts with missing buttons usually end up hanging about in the back of my closet until they go out of style when they get sent to the Good Will to begin their next lives.
I got the instructions out of the box and as I read through them I felt totally inadequate to the task. Thirty one pages of instructions and although I recognized the words as English somehow their combinations didn’t form into nice chunks of meaning that I normally look for in sentences. But then light breaks through the dark clouds. I remember I don’t have to do it all at once. I only have to take that first stitch. So next I focus on a single page of how to pin the pieces of material before sewing. I read it again… and again… and AGAIN!
There is a reason that sangha is one of the three treasures. In Two Arrows Zen sangha we have sewing group that meets on Thursday night with people like me in mind. It is led by Polly, who is an accomplished fabric artist. As I pack up my box of sewing things I paraphrase a famous line from Star Wars line in my mind, “Help me Polly, you are my only hope!”
(to be continued)