Zendo Air Conditioning – An Announcement from Roshi

Bad news for those of you who’ve enjoyed sweltering in the zendo on hot, humid summer evenings, “kicking it Old School”: we’re upgrading the air conditioning. Believe it or not, we’ve had A/C capacity in the zendo – kinda, sorta – for many years now, but it’s never been adequate, especially when we have more than a few bodies giving off heat.

“What about the monks of old, who had to just become one with the heat?” some of you may ask (perhaps quoting ninth-century Zen master Ummon’s “When it’s hot, let the heat kill you.”) It’s true that with air conditioning we’ll be deprived of that vital feature of traditional Zen training. But people who avoid sitting at the Center because of the heat are being deprived of communal sitting altogether. And the staff, who are required to be there for formal sittings, are being deprived of your company.

When we had the first, wimpy system put in, I justified it with the idea that we would use it just enough to remove the worst of the humidity from the zendo. But it’s hardly done even that. So after meditating on the matter, I’ve decided that it’s time to bend to the expectations of the society we live in. These days, more people than ever have grown accustomed to air conditioning, both at work and at home. And with the steady march of global warming, the number of hot, humid days continues to increase.

Attendance at Arnold Park sittings (unlike sesshins, at Chapin Mill) this summer has been consistently sparse. Although this may be due more to other factors – the quicksand of social media and the internet; meditation apps and other programs; and the convenience of sitting at home with the live streaming of the sittings – a more comfortable zendo will enable us to at least rule out the temperature factor. In any case, we’ll be deploying the system discriminately, so as to be able to partake of fresh air through the windows most nights and mornings.

The new system is scheduled to be installed next Tuesday – the last day before the Center closes for its annual two-week summer break (better late than never?). If you come that night – and it’s warm enough to call for A/C – you’ll be among the first to test-drive it. And don’t worry, it will hardly be chilly. We’re going for the Middle Way, the same balance we’re trying to strike between self-punishment and 21st-century American demands for comfort. 

Staff Break

As Roshi mentioned above, Tuesday, August 21, is our last formal sitting before our annual two-week, end-of-summer break. Some of our residents will be here “minding the store,” and members are welcome to stop by to sit in the zendo or use the library. We resume on Wednesday, September 5, with early-morning zazen and dokusan. The two-day September sesshin, led by Eryl Kubicka, begins two days later, on Friday evening.

Klava House Update 

It’s been about one year since we broke ground on the Klava House construction. The foundation was completed last fall, and in more recent months, we’ve installed the wall panels with window and door openings, as well as the subfloor. Currently, the house is covered with a tarp to protect it from rain and provide some much-needed shade for work during the long summer days. Very soon, the tarp will give way to a permanent roof.

All in all, the construction work has been smooth and steady thanks to the mostly dry, albeit humid, weather and the good fortune of not running into any surprises – knock on wood! Speaking of wood, as planned from the start, we’ve taken full advantage of leftover materials from the Retreat Center’s construction, such as wood framing and rebar. The use of repurposed and highly energy-efficient materials is central to the building’s design.

More updates will come as the work continues. If all goes smoothly, the house will be livable, although unfinished, before the coming winter. For the latest photos, click here.

Tony Packer Remembrance

Tony Packer studied with Kapleau-roshi for many years and was authorized by him to teach. She struck out on her own and established a retreat center in Springwater, New York. It’s been five years since her death, and there will be a day of remembrance for her on August 25 at the Springwater Center. There’s a page with details on their website here.

And Don’t Forget Tomorrow’s Picnic! (Saturday, August 18)

What’s a summer without a picnic?

Arrive from 11:30 on; lunch at 1:00. Details are on the RZC website here.