I have finally posted the story and photos from our trip to Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The trip story is here http://myredbmw.net/travel/benelux-jun-2011/.
The photo gallery is here: http://gallery.myredbmw.net/v/Travel/Benelux2011/.
Rosa and I have been working on a new project over the last few months and now it is ready.
Over our past few vacations, Rosa has been the focus of much attention due to her fashion sense. We try to capture her different outfits when we are our trips, but it was not very systematic.
So we created a new project where I can photos of Rosa’s outfits every day. It also gives me lots of practice fashion shooting. We will try different locations, and I can try different lighting setups.
The web site is now live and available at http://WhatIsRosaWearing.com. We are both very happy to finally launch the site.
Last year Rosa and I attended the Vintage Clothing sale at the Château Laurier. It was a lot of fun, so we made plans to make sure we did not miss it this year.
We dropped off Rosa’s mother Lemin at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica for the French service and then went to the sale. In the morning it was so crowded. I could barely move around. I stayed only 45 minutes before I left to pick up Lemin. I took her to eat a quick lunch at the RichTree Market in the Rideau Centre then we returned to the Vintage Sale.
There was a little more room to move around. But it still took 10 minutes to find Rosa in the three huge rooms.
I set a special goal this year. Last year, I was so shy I didn’t take any pictures of anyone except Rosa. This year, my goal was to actually talk to people and take pictures. There are so many interestingly dressed people at the show; it should be easy, if only I was an extrovert. Which I am not.
I found by speaking with some of the sellers, that it was not as busy as last year. I found that astounding as I could hardly move around in the morning.
I did talk to a few people. Not a lot but at least a few. It’s hard to overcome my shyness.
Rosa introduced me to a few people that she knew through other events like the Ottawa Fashion week (when I was at Mosport). It was a pleasure to meet Joa and friend. He is from El Salvador and is working in Ottawa ex-pat for a global professional services company.
I was not the only photographer at the show. I was envious that some of them were so at ease with approaching people. A few people stopped Rosa, as she was dressed stylishly as always. Marcia from the blog MarciaBCreative talked with Rosa and the photographer John Smith took her photo.
Rosa and I are looking forward to next year, which will likely be in a different location. I’ll remember get a press or photo pass from the organizer. I have been questioned by the organizer each year I show up with my DSLR camera.
Lately I’ve been thinking that I need to make some changes in my life. I am concerned about my stress levels. One of the biggest causes of stress is the organization of the 2012 Ted Powell Memorial Race weekend at Calabogie Motorsports Park. It’s been an uphill battle for months. There are many major issues that need to be resolved.
Additionally, I have felt unfocused and scattered. I need a way to find calm, learn to relax and focus, and deal with the issues at hand.
I also just finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Steve practiced Buddhist meditation, although he did not seem to live a Buddhist life – he was a fantastically talented asshole. But he was also incredibly focused. I wondered if Buddhism was a key to that focus.
The information page asked the participants to wear comfortable, dark clothes that will not cut-off circulation while sitting. I gave this much thought and decided to buy a pair of medical scrubs. I always wanted a pair. When I was in high school the cool kids wore scrubs. I found that only one place in Ottawa sells scrubs so I headed there. They had many different colours but I chose a pair of black bottoms. They were so comfortable. They only had V-neck tops, which I am not comfortable wearing, so I had to find a top. I headed to the new Walmart on Baseline. The parking was a nightmare – they don’t appear to have enough spaces. I bought a simple dark-grey button-up shirt.
Then I left for downtown.
The White Wind Zen Centre is in Sandy Hill, surrounded by a tall hedge. It also has a monastic name: Honzan Dainen-ji. When I arrived, there were two other participants waiting outside on the porch. The centre is a heritage building with a large wrap-around porch. There was a small pond with a waterfall beside the Centre. There was a multitude of birds eating and bathing in the water. The biggest grey squirrel I have ever seen was exploring in the front yard. It was so peaceful; I could have just sat on the porch for hours taking in nature. At precisely 1:30PM, the front door was opened and one of the monks allowed us to enter. We had to remove our shoes and socks upon entering. I changed into my new purchases.
There were 6 participants. Our training was conducted by two monks. Both had cleanly shaved heads and wore simple dark tunics. We had a short introduction in the kitchen before we entered the zendo.
In the zendo or meditation room, we were introduced to the basics of zazen. This is a sitting practice. Everyone sits on a zabuton (like a large flat throw cushion) and zafu (round meditation cushion). During zazen it is important to sit up straight. The key is to form a stable base by creating a triangle with the butt and knees. For example, most people know the lotus or half-lotus position. I was not able to use either so I chose to tuck my feet behind the opposite knee. Our hands must also be positioned correctly.
Once everyone is seated, the zazen begins with three strikes on a bell. The zazen participant will breathe deeply and bow with the strikes.
Zazen is a 30-minute sitting meditation, with eyes open. One must experience all of the sensations. This includes the feeling of breathing, the feel of sitting, the feeling of your clothes, the sounds of the room and what you can see without looking around. It was important not to get lost in thought about the sensations. The purpose was just to experience the sensations without a mental commentary. The zazen ends with another strike of the bell.
Between the 30-minute zazen sessions was a 10-minute walking practice called kinhin. This is a slow walk around the periphery of the room. It also focused on the physical experience, including breathing, the feel of your feet on the wooden floor, the feeling of your clothes, the sounds and so forth.
The first two zazen were done facing the room. The last zazen was facing a wall, which is the normal (non-novice) practice. This was more difficult for me, as my eyes hurt. Although I was at the correct distance, my eyes strained to find focus on the white, textureless surface of the wall.
After three sessions of zazen and kinhin, we left the zendo and went to the kitchen for a question and answer session.
During the practice, I did not understanding the theory behind zazen and kinhin. I was expecting it would be more trance-like, an unguided daydreaming state. Instead we were told to focus on just the physical sensations and not on the mind.
It took a while to really understand this. The purpose is to attain mindfulness. There is much about our lives that are just ideas running around in our heads. Stress and worry are created only within ourselves. Although external influences cause us to feel bad, our emotions are only what we feel in our mind.
The first Buddha started with what is known as the First Noble Truth – that there is suffering and sorrow in the world. We experience pain and sorrow when we contemplate that our life is not as we wish it would be. Although we rarely think about it consciously, we are also afraid of our inevitable death. No matter how hard we wish it, it is not possible to achieve the life we desire for ourselves. The dichotomy is a source of internal suffering.
The Buddha concluded that suffering was not caused by the nature of the world, but rather our reaction to the dichotomy.
The Buddha realized that by being honest with oneself and understanding that everything is impermanent. Our possessions, our desires, our thoughts and our lives are fleeting on the scale of the universe. This understanding is the path to Buddhist enlightenment.
By concentrating on only the physical sensations available, zazen is a starting point to this understanding. Although we think we feel emotions and thoughts, in reality we can only sense (feel) our immediate physical surroundings. All else is created in our minds. This understanding comes from experiencing the physical world without an analysis in our minds.
Now that I have taken the course, and have completed some supplementary reading, I need to think about this some more. I need to understand how this fits into my mental framework, and how I can incorporate what I find valuable. My goal is still to achieve a more balanced, focused life and to reduce the stress and worry that I feel.