This old picture, which I've used all year to indicate that "Today, I went up to Chattanooga and practice with the Zen Group up there" is now officially replaced with this new picture, a photo of some establishment called "Chattanooga Cash & Carry."
A little more random, a little less explicit. But this picture of an arbitrary Tennessee warehouse will from now on signify that today I went up to Chattanooga and practiced with the Zen Group up there.
On this particular morning, I listened to a podcast on the way up by Bay Area Insight Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield, and managed to work this story that he told, a Swedish folk tale, into my talk:
One night, at a remote farmhouse in the far North Country, the fearsome dragon Ar appeared and threatened to destroy the house unless they paid him some sort of tribute (Swedish dragons apparently do that sort of thing). The father said they were just poor farmers and didn't own anything of value. They scarcely made more money than a Chinese wood-cutter. What could they possibly offer to a dragon?
Ar suggested that he might spare their home if they gave him their daughter's hand in marriage. This was a most unusual and unexpected offer, but the father said to let him think that over for a while, and finally, parents being as they sometimes are, he agreed. The couple called their daughter down from her room to break the news to her.
Naturally, she was aghast, but being a wise and virtuous daughter, she abided by her parent's wishes. But before the wedding, she snuck off into the village and sought out the counsel of a wise old woman, one who had a dozen children of her own and several dozen grandchildren. The old woman told her not to worry, as she knew a trick for just this very situation, and whispered a secret plan to her.
On her wedding day, the daughter wore a lovely wedding dress, but beneath that dress, at the old woman's advise, she wore another wedding dress and another beneath that. In fact, she had worn 10 dresses in all. The ceremony itself went off without a hitch (if you can consider having a dragon in the place of the groom and the bride bundled beneath 10 dresses "hitchless") and afterwords, Ar took his new bride back to his lair.
So on their wedding night, the daughter asked the dragon if he wished her to remove her wedding dress so that they could consummate their vows. "Yes," the dragon replied, "I would like that very much."
"Well, then," the daughter said, "All I ask is for you to also remove your clothes at the same time as I, and to take off an item for each one I remove. Can you promise me that?"
"I promise," said the dragon, who probably would have agreed to anything in his excitement. But dragons, it should be noted, are famous for always keeping their promises, and his bride new that she could trust him to keep his word.
So the new bride removed her dress and the dragon took off whatever it is that dragons wear to weddings. But when he finished, he was surprised to see that his bride had another dress on beneath.
So as she removed her second dress, the dragon was forced to keep his promise and being a scaly dragon, shed a layer of skin as snakes and some reptiles are known to be able to do. But when he looked up, he saw that she was now wearing a third dress.
The second layer of skin was more difficult to remove than the first, and his exposed dragon-flesh was raw and quite sensitive. And as she took off her fourth dress, he had to use his claws to tear at his sensitive flesh, but he had made a promise and was, shall we say, highly motivated to have her continue.
So she took off another dress, and another, and another, and each time the dragon tore away more and more of himself. Soon, the daughter started to see a real change in his appearance. And by the time she finally took off the last and final dress, what emerged from the last layer of dragon flesh was not a monster, but a handsome prince, as is so often the case in these kinds of stories.
And the prince came to her and they followed the old woman's last instructions, and ultimately had a dozen children of their own.