Sunday, May 3, 2020

4/21/20: Bananas & Buddhism

This was in the window of the drycleaners.
APRIL 21, 2020: Bananas & Buddhism


MASK UPDATE: Cotton handkerchiefs or bandanas work much better than slippery synthetics. Also, I tried using cut-up tights as the website suggested, and they were definitely more comfortable.


TIP #1. Ou Sont Les Bananes d'antan?
(Translation: Where are the bananas of yesteryear?)
Truly, this is a question that only someone over a certain age would ask. Because young people cannot remember the time when bananas were sweeter than they are now. Much. Sweeter. I'm not talking nostalgia here. I'm talking FACT.

You see, bananas reproduce asexually. Now, when most valuable plants have a health problem such as a blight or a fungus, that plant can be crossed with a similar plant that is RESISTANT to said problem, leading to a valuable plant without the problem. But not so with bananas. So.... the bananas of my childhood and early adulthood simply do not exist anymore. The current banana, I think it's called the Cambridge, is much milder in flavor. Thus, I always experience a longing for my childhood bananas whenever consuming a Cambridge.

But, bloggelinis, never fear!
Your intrepid Blog Mistress has remedied the problem!
(or at least mitigated it)
I have discovered that if you microwave your bananas for four minutes, this cooking returns some of that delicious Vintage flavor and ALL the fragrance! Thus, this....
...becomes THIS!!!

I am finding my Buddhist practice very helpful during this strange time. As one of the speakers said in a dharma talk:
"Buddhism was designed for difficulty."
I have found this to be true for quite a while. If I have a serious problem, I always think, "Thank goodness I'm a Buddhist." Now, this doesn't mean I have found through Buddhism a way of making the problem go away. Not a bit of it! In fact, if you're looking for a philosophy that tells you, "Don't worry! Everything is going to be alright!" -- you're better off running screaming away from Buddhism to, say, Christianity.

Because you know what Buddhism's answer is to the eternal question
"WHY ME?!?"
Buddhism's answer is:
And that turns out to be a very helpful answer, because it moves me through my self-pity and on to other things.

I don't consider Buddhism a religion, although many practitioners do. I consider it a practice, a way of retraining my mind so I don't make myself so miserable and I act with more compassion toward others.

There was a time when Buddhism wasn't working for me. It was after my sister Nancy died. I would go to dharma talks and sit there with tears streaming down my face, feeling "You are not speaking to me." So I stopped going to dharma talks.

And I said to my two closest friends, Carolyn and Bobbi, "I'm thinking of quitting Buddhism." And they both said, "Oh no, Terry! We, your friends who love you, think that is a terrible idea! No no. You need to stay involved with Buddhism."

And that made me realize two things:
  1. My Buddhist practice had made me a more compassionate person, someone easier to be friends with.
  2. I must have been pretty awful before!

Not that meditation has ever been easy for me. At one point, I was a member of the Wild Geese sangha, ten women who sat zazen together and discussed Buddhist texts. I was considering doing a sesshin -- a 7-day silent retreat where the main activity is sitting zazen. All the Wild Geese were much more experienced than me. They all said the same thing: "The first three days are hard, and then you break through a barrier and you feel you could sit forever!" I was really looking forward to breaking through that barrier.

Never happened. I am reminded of one of my favorite headlines ever. It was in the Sports section of the paper. "My First Marathon: The First 26 Miles Were the Hardest." A marathon is 26 miles long, for those who might not know.

I was always complaining to the sangha, "I'm not getting any better! My zazen hasn't improved at all!" They always had the same response, "Yes, but it works." And I could not deny that even my impatient, frustrating, sporadic attempts to meditate had somehow changed me. At this point, I think of sitting as simply rehearsing pausing -- in the hope that in the future I will pause before I impulsively do something that hurts other people or myself. That would be nice.

So. My zazen is a bit more regular during this pandemic, and my consumption of dharma talks is way up! San Francisco Zen Center has been live-streaming their dharma talks for years, so the transition to Zoom was relatively easy for them, so that people could ask questions. I remotely attend dharma talks on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and Wednesday evenings. Then on Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30, there is a short sitting and short talk -- called a "dharmette" by Abbot David Zimmerman.

There's much more happening remotely. I find the speakers have wisdom that is helpful. Plus the confession of the Abbess of Green Gulch Farm, that she had bought at 38-ounce bag of peanut M&M's and had almost immediately eaten half the bag, was very liberating for me. Now that's MY kind of religion!

I urge you to try some Buddhism and see what you think. As Buddha said, don't take anything on faith. Test it for yourself. Here's the link to the SF Zen Center's calendar and website. And there's also the Hartford Street Zen Center, where I first connected with Buddhism. They have a lot of online options too. They also have something SFZC doesn't have -- a study group of ancient Buddhist texts every Thursday at 7:30. I'm definitely going to try that.
Before closing, I want to give thanks and credit to my friend Elizabeth Watson-Semmons, who took the photo of me that so many of you liked. I'm standing in front of a cross-section of an ancient redwood tree, in the Academy of Sciences.

Also, Elizabeth told me her father, known to be straight, was a great rose enthusiast who dug up bushes and carried them from old home to new home. So not all rose-schleppers are gay men!

Take THAT, Bloggelinis!

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