I’m back from my very long trip to a very close destination – a meditation retreat at the Black Scorpion Temple near Tepotzlan, Mexico. A Zen retreat is the most thorough instruction in being present to the life of no distance, the life right in front of you. Thank you friends for watching this space over my silent week with no expectations.
Coming home after time away is startling in more ways than one. Parents on the school playground might say something like, “You look rested,” and I usually think, Who me?
A monastic retreat schedule can seem overwhelming. Doing it is completely undoing. It demands all of the effort you usually exert avoiding paying attention. It wrings all the worry and distraction out of you. It produces the most beneficial kind of fatigue. It uses you up and fills you with nothing at all. Who me?
So that’s how it was coming home to a dark house last night after a long travel day. I saw a small package in the stack of mail on the kitchen table. I knew what it was. I am brimming with the sweetness of it, and I have not even opened it yet. Inside is a name. Who me?
A dear new mother and artist Stacy de la Rosa, sent it to me as a gift. Inside the box is a hand-stamped pendant with a name. The pendant is like these, photographed more beautifully than I will be able to. The name is Maezen. It is what we Buddhists call a dharma name, the name given to me by my teacher when I took the formal precepts as a student. Some people see it and think it is my maiden name, and in a way it is. That’s okay. Nearly everyone sees it and wonders how to say it. That’s okay too. In my sangha, or practice community, it is the only name anyone calls me.
When we take a dharma name, it is a subtle and profound teaching in how attached we are to concepts. Our mind is so swiftly conditioned to an acquired understanding of names and labels. Like all forms of delusion, we attach and identify erroneously with names when they are just tools. Identifying yourself with a certain name is like mistaking the fork for the food.
And yet names are very powerful, as powerful as anything and everything if we completely embody it without a second thought. The name Maezen is one that I not so discreetly asked for in tribute to my first teacher Maezumi Roshi. His name was pronounced (by most of us) as My-zumi. The name I now carry is pronounced (by most of us) as May-zen. Bearing it helps me to remember him, and to forget as well.
I see the words that Stacy wrote on the accompanying card, and having worn myself to a point of unhesitating attention, I will do exactly what it says.
Wear in love. Isn’t that beautiful? I so recommend that you wear it too. No matter what you call it, love is what answers to everything.