CHAPTER FIVE ACCEPTANCE
Jazz’s modest chamber held only a twin bed and a small bamboo table. It was in the restricted part of the temple, designated for resident monks only. A cloudy mirror hung on the rock wall.
She ran her fingers across her smooth scalp, noticing her lips and eyes were more prominent. Her image was simplified, pure, naked, and untainted as if her ego lay within the locks on the floor. Instead of feeling a loss as she expected, she felt free. Free to be herself without the frills or pressure of having her look dialed in. Free to concentrate on her inner growth among those who held that as their highest duty.
Jazz put her arms in the sleeves of the black kesa Hsu had given her and pulled the coarse tunic over her head. Black was the color the novice monks wore. The heart locket remained around her neck, the one thing Jazz would never surrender.
A light knock echoed through the room. The arched door creaked as Jazz opened it. Hsu stood with his head erect, his back straight. To her Hsu resembled a beloved king who had little regard for his own conveniences. He ducked under the doorframe to enter.
“Do you want to join our zazen?”
“Our seated meditation.”
“Sure. Can you show me how?” Jazz was intrigued. She always improvised her meditations. Now she had a chance to learn how the experts did it.
Hsu led the way to the meditation chamber still within the private section of the monastery. High rock walls surrounded this part of the temple. A bronze Buddha statue overpowered the hall. Beside it hung intricate landscapes with calligraphy sketched along the bottom. Yellow mats dotted the worn yet gleaming tiled floor. Hsu sank gracefully onto a mat, signaling Jazz to sit on the mat next to him. On the other side of the room, several monks sat unmoving, clothed in black or golden kesas draped from their shoulders to the ground.
Hsu demonstrated how to arrange limbs to find your center of gravity and sit comfortably in the lotus position. The position, he instructed, that increases awareness. “Once you create a slow, natural rhythm of your breathing, the breath will take care of itself,” he said. “Images, thoughts, mental constructions from the subconscious will float into your perception, like clouds across the sky. Practice without striving and the effects will come.” He told her to focus on the spot below the navel, the hara, to improve her joriki, or power of concentration.
Jazz twisted her body into place and eventually held a comfortable lotus position. Counting her breaths as Hsu imparted, she inhaled and exhaled, one and two, in and out, three and four, in and out, five and six. Her breathing became smooth and deep. While concentrating on her hara, she flowed into a deep alpha state where her body was calm and her mind hyper-alert, awakened to that extra sense you find in meditation or rapture. She became one with her essence as her spirit ruled her physical body.
Lingering in this ethereal space, she was eventually drawn to Aidan. He looked haggard, unshaven, and upset, pacing across the floor in the room Jazz had seen while in a remote viewing at the top of Mount Sopris. Harvey sat at a desk. Aidan demanded to know what he had uncovered about Jazz’s kidnapping.
“We’re using a remote viewer to find her. He’s identified Asia, but we haven’t determined her exact location. He thinks she’s traveling,” Harvey relayed.
I need to let Aidan know I’m okay. Jazz decided to try something she had practiced in the remote-viewing group. As if standing before him, she spoke to him with her thoughts. Don’t worry. I’m fine. Immediately, Aidan sank to the couch. With fingers pinching the brow of his nose, he lowered his head and closed his eyes. Jazz hoped he recognized her message, but she couldn’t be sure.
She returned her awareness to the hushed meditation chamber. Hsu remained stationary beside her. Jazz rose from the mat, and strolled outside where she found a bench surrounded by roses, fragrant herbs, and chirping birds.
It was awful seeing Aidan so upset. Even if she could remember his cell number or his landline, she couldn’t call him. His phones might be bugged. She would view him again in a few days and try to discern if he had received her message.
The brash peal of a gong bellowed. Jazz stood, brushed leaves off her kesa, and followed the monks to the dining hall. At the entrance, a man handed her a set of bowls wrapped in white linen. After everyone was inside, a young barefaced man shook a bell and everyone sat down on floor mats. The monks arranged the bowls, spoons, and chopsticks on the low table in front of them, then bowed from their seated position while chanting.
Hsu directed Jazz to follow their lead. She listened to the chants as she bowed. The server stood in front of her and filled her largest bowl with rice, the other smaller ones with dumplings, a steaming soup, and barley.
He went around the room spooning food. When he finished, they ate. The room was quiet, everyone avoiding any noise, not even shuffling of utensils. Those wanting a second portion waited with hands folded until the server came by with refills. Near the end of the meal, an elderly man clapped two wooden blocks together. Another monk poured hot water into the saucers to rinse them. The monks stirred the water then lifted the bowls to their lips and drank. After the final chant, the old man clapped the blocks together again as the group stood, formed a line, and left.
Jazz resumed her seat on the bench to watch the tending of the garden. Two teenaged boys worked together, completing each task deliberately. They gently held bok choy plants, placed them in the ground, and filled in with dirt. An older monk lifted earthworms, carefully transporting them from one location to another. Another man gathered soil from the roots of weeds as if the dirt were sacred. Jazz wished she were that thoughtful and appreciative.
Hsu strolled over to join her. Jazz asked him to explain the words chanted during the meal.
“These are the chants of gratitude called the Five Reflections or Gokan-no-ge,” he began. “The first chant reflects on our work, and the work of those who brought the food. Next, we express an awareness of the quality of our deeds. The third chant speaks of the essential practice of mindfulness, which helps us transcend greed, anger, and delusion, the three poisons that cultivate evil. In the fourth, we show appreciation for the food that sustains our health. To finish, we accept the offering, so we can continue our service to sentient beings, bringing all to enlightenment. For us, eating is a gift. We vow to be worthy of it.”
“That’s so beautiful.” Jazz admired what the chants of gratitude conveyed. Eating was a necessity she typically rushed through. She thought about the hordes lining up at fast food drive-ups in the States and the contrast.
“Most of us do not eat past noon. You can eat later in the day with the beginner monks if you prefer.”
“Okay. I am used to having dinner.” Fasting everyday from noon until the next morning, sounded difficult. “Why did you become a monk?” Jazz was curious about this remarkable man.
“I was raised in a Buddhist family and entered the monastic life when I was 16 to gain purity of the singleness of mind. For many years, I studied at a monastery near Tapai where I received precepts. Later, I came to this monastery. When the abbot died, I had the tonsure conferred by formal Buddhist rite, and took his place.”
“What does an abbot do?”
“An abbot oversees the operation of the monastery. Buddhism is not a religion it is an education, a way of life. Hence, we have no conflict with religions such as Christianity. We provide this education, or training, and serve those in need.”
“It seems like being a monk takes a lot of discipline,” Jazz remarked.
“We live by four universal vows: to help others, to end afflictions, to master the practice, and to attain enlightenment. This takes some discipline, but the reward is freedom from the bondage of suffering caused by delusion.”
Jazz respected Hsu’s path. She wanted to learn as much as she could while at the monastery. After all, everyone seeks peace and contentment. If she could let go of her past, if she could be more disciplined, perhaps she could gain a little bit of Hsu’s heaven.
Hsu interrupted her thoughts. “Can we meet tomorrow? To discuss using hypnosis to retrieve your memories.”
“Come by my chamber in the morning.” Hsu stood and walked away.
Jazz needed exercise and she needed to stay busy. Though they didn’t force work on her, she sensed it was expected. She grabbed a broom leaning against a tree to sweep the path. Hypnosis interested Jazz, but she’d never tried it. She wondered if Aidan used it with his clients. Deep in thought, it was a while before Jazz noticed a young monk staring at her. She smiled, and he quickly looked away. He appeared younger than Jazz, feminine and shy.
The sun faded behind the mountains to the west and shadows crept over the garden. While sweeping leaves from the cobbled path, Jazz pondered the events of the last few days. So much has happened. Strange how I’m comfortable here.
In the morning, the gong woke Jazz. She rose from the small bed. As she put the robe on, she realized she was calm, her usual morning dread gone. She dipped a rag into the basin on top of the table to wash her face and scalp, thinking this was much easier than styling her hair.
When she entered the dining hall, Jazz took a seat by the monk she had seen yesterday in the garden. Noting the monk’s smooth skin, Jazz suspected this might be a woman. After they ate, Jazz left, caught up to the monk, and introduced herself, with the few words of Mandarin she knew. “Hsu?” Jazz shrugged her shoulders to stress her request. The monk motioned her to follow, led her to Hsu’s door, knocked, and walked away.
“Come in,” Hsu called.
His chamber was furnished with an antique raised, four-poster bed surrounded by curtains. Carved birds perched on limbs of trees, painted a fading red, black, and gold, decorated the wooden canopy and frame.
“Welcome, please have a seat.” Hsu motioned to a cushioned chair.
Jazz crossed the squeaking, wide-planked bamboo floor.
“Have you ever tried hypnosis?” he queried, dominating the small desk he sat by.
“No, but I’ve read about it.”
“Hypnosis was used in Greek and Egyptian sleep temples as long ago as 3,000 BC. There has been much success using hypnosis to retrieve lost memories,” he relayed. “In a session I will guide you toward those experiences you have forgotten, then prompt you to observe what happened, instead of reliving the experience.”
Jazz had to trust Hsu to allow him to hypnotize her, putting her mind under his control. He was a master, treated with great respect. Hsu had the wisdom of an old man, yet his skin was wrinkle free and his step lively. He seemed ageless, but she guessed he was in his 40s. Jazz was a feeler and gauged people by how they affected her. Around Hsu she was calm, influenced by his noble radiance. She realized she felt safe in his presence. “Let’s try it.”
Hsu told her to let the session unfold naturally. Jazz repositioned her kesa, laid her head on the back of the chair, and closed her eyes. Hsu guided her through a sequence that relaxed her body from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. Next, he suggested she imagine walking down a staircase to a special, peaceful place for her, as he counted from ten to one.
“Take an easy step onto the staircase with 10, deeper and deeper to nine,” he continued.
Jazz drifted like a breeze down a spiral staircase.
“And one… step into your peaceful place… imagine this place.”
Jazz envisioned gazing across Lake Pend Oreille from her deck.
Hsu spoke unhurriedly. “Now you see a door in front of you… walk over, open it, and step inside.” He paused. “You are in a hallway with doors along both sides. Continue down the hall until you are drawn to the door that leads you back in time a few days, to a setting where you were experiencing something pleasant.” Hsu waited. “Open that door and tell me what you see.”
Jazz flowed seamlessly through a door as if passing into thick fog that lifted to reveal vague shapes that grew clear. At length, she uttered, “I’m on a beach… with Aidan. He makes me smile… he’s so happy.” Jazz chuckled faintly.
“Excellent. Now return to the hallway. Find the door that takes you to an incident you have forgotten… tell me what you see.”
Jazz was instantly propelled to a room fronted by windows. “I’m drinking, um… tea… sitting somewhere… a coffee shop.”
“Is there anyone with you?”
“Yes, a man.”
“He’s short… Asian,” Jazz mumbled.
“Is this someone you know?”
“Oh, it’s Jian.”
“What are you discussing?”
“China… the lack of freedom.”
“What do you think of this man?”
“He seems kind… a good man.”
“What does he ask of you?”
“Jian wants me to find… um… someone that is missing.”
“What is your response?”
“I say yes.”
“Good… imagine you are again in your special place.” Hsu paused. “Move forward in time to the current day.” He counted from one to five, bringing her to the present. “Eyes wide open, you feel wonderful, refreshed.”
Jazz sighed. “Oh, that was nice. I didn’t want to come back.”
“Do you remember what you saw?”
“Um, well, I was kind of gone, but… oh yes,” she beamed, excited as she remembered. “I saw Jian in the coffee shop in Spokane. I’ve retrieved a missing piece of my life. Thank you.” It was like the memory of Jian had been hiding in her mind, waiting for her to find it. Remembering him gave a sense of authenticity to what Jian, Aidan, and Hsu had told her. Finally, she was convinced it was true.
Hsu walked Jazz to her chamber. “I did not want to overwhelm you in our first session. We can try again later, but you should rest.” As he was leaving, he turned and said, “Someone wants your help learning English. Are you interested?”
“Yes, I’d love to.”
“I will introduce you tonight.”
Jazz climbed into bed for a nap. She dozed off thinking of Jian, their conversations, and how much she enjoyed talking to him. Hours later, melodic chanting woke her, the deep vocals reverberating like distant thunder across the monastery.
That evening, as the practice of serving, bowing, and chanting began, Jazz studied, with a deeper understanding, the monks’ reverence, chewing each bite completely, relishing the delicate flavors. She watched the monks around her, mostly young men, some teens; the novice monks Hsu told her she’d be eating with.
Outside the dining hall, Hsu introduced her to the monk he had mentioned. “Jazz, this is Sun Yan.”
Jazz recognized Yan as the one who had been watching her in the garden and who she’d sat by that morning.
“Happy meet you,” Sun Yan murmured.
“Nice to meet you.” Jazz was now certain Yan was a woman. “You want to practice English?”
“Yes,” Yan replied.
“When should we start?” Jazz asked, noting the excited glow in Yan’s eyes.
“Great. I’ll see you in the garden after zazen.”