This morning I went over to Jikoji, a temple up on Skyline, for the morning sitting and service thing. Like almost all other Zen in the Bay Area, it's in the Soto school of thought; the other school, Rinzai, is absent here, mainly as an accident of history. I'm starting to get a more up-front sense of the Soto way of doing things, and I'm not sure it agrees with me. They do sit rigorously, but there's also a lot of talking and thinking and analysis. Not only can I do all that myself, but I have done it, for years upon years: it's a part of who I am. So I'm quite confident that you can't analyze your way into realization. You can't think about something for a while, and thereby become more engaged and present in the things you do. You have to do things, you have to sit and walk and wash dishes and rake leaves and even talk to people, if you're into that sort of thing. And maybe talk about the doing. But they like to talk about abstract things, and about the experience of practice...maybe that's really helpful for a lot of people, or maybe I'm missing out, or maybe I'm just not good with groups (I know that last one is true), but all the teachers I've enjoyed reading about are/were very emphatic about the importance of moment-by-moment doing. Since the Jikoji folks had just had a sesshin last week, they were talking about returning to the Source, to the quiet place, and then coming back out to re-engage the world; but all Zen literature is very clear that you carry that Source with you, that the Absolute and the phenomenal world are not separate things.
Of course, part of my practice is to be less harshly judgemental, not so thoroughly arrogant, and to really accept and meet people as they are. That's a little tricky at this first-ever time in my life when I've never felt less like making new friends, and everything I have is more than sufficient; but I have years of training and changes still to go, and everything will come as it's time.
Anyway. I might go back, but mostly I'm very happy on my own. I'll continue to stop by Kannon Do, and tomorrow I'm planning to go sit with a teacher in north Menlo Park, Misha Merrill. I listened to one of her Dharma talks, and she sounds like she smiles a lot, something that seems to be uncommon for the Zen folks around here. Even when I took myself far too seriously, I still thought Zen was funny.