Downtown Street Zazenkai
Inspired by various sit-ins and street retreats, SWZC led a street meditation in downtown San Diego. Saturday, May 21st, three practitioners gathered for an intensive day-long in the fastest, loudest part of the city.
We were met with curious eyes by the hundreds of passersby. Being the stillness amidst a flurry of hurry, the only people who stopped to talk were security guards and the homeless. The security guards displayed sincere compassion as one of them kindly asked us to not sit at City Park. He was very empathetic and understanding of the practice. He offered a few recommendations for a good sitting location. At another spot, the guard simply asked us “You guys alright?” checking in rather than throwing out. Also, There were a couple people who joyfully joined in the sitting practice for more than half a sitting period.
There was a free feeling from the breeze on us outside. Sitting from one place to the next, whichever and wherever, the world was the zendo. This style of street retreat reinforced the practice of consistency. Being open to any change that inevitably came our way revealed itself as the necessary practice for the day.
The first part of samu was focused on trash pick up in City Park. For the second part of work practice in downtown, we dedicated over an hour to outreach with loving action. We prepared lunch bags that included a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fresh fruit and snack bars. While we were not able to feed the entire homeless population of downtown, we did the best with what we had. Reaching out and connecting with the true city dwellers tapped deep into the roots of service. This is engaging the forgotten and invisible community of downtown. Every single person reciprocated the small meal with huge gratitude and support. One homeless man displayed great enthusiasm and cheer during a sidewalk meditation. He exclaimed “Are you guys meditating?!?!” “I meditate too!!!”
By the afternoon, we reached the Dharma Bums on 2nd Avenue. Jeff, a most gracious host, sat with us on the second floor of the beautiful monastic styled temple. In our chat with Jeff, he let us know that the Dharma Bums can house up to 6 dedicated practitioners with very simple living quarters. The aim is to model a true monastic practice.
At this point, any sitting meditation within an enclosed space came as a luxury. The Red Lotus Society, a residential meditation center on 3rd Avenue, was our next stop. Both the Dharma Bums and RLS offered serene refuge from the chaos of the streets. The practice continued from the zendo to the Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Island Avenue.
Here is the open-to-change schedule:
- 9:00AM Meet at Horton Plaza (Broadway & 4th City Park)
- 9:10AM Zazen
- 9:30AM Opening Council/Discussion
- 9:40AM Zazen
- 9:50AM Yoga/Stretching
- 10:10AM Zazen
- 10:20AM Yoga/Stretching
- 10:40AM Zazen
- 11:00AM Samu – trash clean up
- 11:30AM Lunch/Break
- 12:00PM Make sandwiches and food bags with water
- 1:00PM Pass out food bags along 3rd Ave
- 2:00PM Dharma Bums Zazen
- 3:00PM Red Lotus Society Zazen
- 4:00PM Martin Luther King Jr Promenade Park Zazen
- 5:00PM Four Vows