Sunday, January 18, 2009

Satori In Chattanooga, Part II

I went up and visited the Chattanooga Zen Group today. But before I get into that, I realized a little while ago that one of the very first entries to this blog - my first, true, first-person account posted here as I learned to use this tool - was about a prior trip to Chattanooga. Four and a half years later, the May 23, 2004 entry still reads fresh to me, as if I had just written it. Go figure.

But here's the spooky, coincidental, almost synchronistic part of it - I gave my first dharma talk in Chattanooga today, filling in for my good friend and now-departed Zen teacher Arthur (departed from the U.S.A. for a career in Switzerland, not departed from this mortal coil - hope that didn't confuse you), and for this maiden talk, I pretty much recycled the dharma talk I gave last Sunday at the Atlanta center (why waste a perfectly good talk?). The topic of the recycled, slightly soiled and not-so-virginal maiden talk was the dana paramita - the same topic as my blog posting of May 24, 2004, the very next day after blogging about the prior Chattanooga trip! (cue spooky music . . . )

Okay, that may not blow your mind, but it is a coincidence. Or evidence that I have not grown intellectually in four and a half years. (Actually, I could have used some of the quotes from the May 24, 2004 entry to bolster my talk. I'll have to remember that if I give the talk a third time around.)

Anyway, Arthur has a confidence in me that I don't fully understand, and the good folks in Chattanooga have the patience to listen to me recycle a week-old talk, resulting in my going up there today to visit the center and deliver the Sunday sermon. There's at least one moment during every dharma talk where I feel like a complete jackass, up there braying about topics that almost by definition cannot be put into words, about the subtlest of experiences that I can barely comprehend myself. Those dubious moments did not fail to manifest themselves to me today. And yet, despite the Calvinistic clouds of self doubt drifting through my mind, I felt like I gave the best effort that I had in me that day to spread the dharma and encourage the practice of the good people of Chattanooga.

I have a true fondness for the City of Chattanooga, the people and their Zen group. Nestled on the Tennessee River beneath Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga has a rugged topography reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest - with a little imagination, I can almost fool myself into thinking that I'm back in Portland, my aspirational home, or at least some suburb of Portland (think, say, Camas). The Zen group meets at a yoga studio in the North Shore area of Chattanooga, a very hip, mixed-use area of funky old industrial buildings and New Urbanism-style lofts and retail space, with food co-ops, outdoor sports stores and, well, yoga and Zen centers. I had breakfast (blueberry pancakes) in a little family-run diner across from the yoga studio, sitting at the counter with a (mostly) young crowd dressed (mostly) in fleece. The only thing missing was the public transportation, but then Chattanooga is a lot smaller than Portland or Seattle. But despite the carbon footprint of a 200-plus mile round trip, I felt it was worth the effort.

At times, southeastern Tennessee can feel more West than East Coast. Or maybe it was just the rain.


Mumon said...

Hey, I live in Camas, technically.

Shokai said...

Cool. I "discovered" Camas last June when I made a marketing call on the Georgia Pacific plant there (no sale) - see June 14, 2008 entry. Nice town. River view. Gassho.