I am in Toronto, in case you aren't caught up, doing an intensive, one-of-a-kind, never-before study with my Miksang teacher and one of the other senior students. She's way senior to me in terms of study - she's been at this 20 years to our teacher's 30, so I am like a baby senior student, senior only in my extreme dedication, which has not gone unnoticed.
This transmission period is - well, as I expected in the basic ways, and so much more. Every day Maxine Sidran (the other student) and I meet with John McQuade, co-founder of Miksang (www.miksang.org) and we listen to him (and transcribe, and record with notes - this is the first time a lot of this stuff has been taught to anyone this concisely) for an hour or so, then he shows us reams of slides. I've seen a lot of the slides before in various other workshops, but now there is a context, and my own experiences, both with shooting and with teaching. It's intense. I always have this worry looking at so many slides, I want to grasp them, to "get" something out of it, and by doing that of course, I get nothing. There is nothing to "get", is the thing. Then, we eat lunch at the local taqueria or sushi place (YUM TORONTO) and get to work, shooting. I've been shooting alone the last couple of days, working my way south from Little Korea (where the Shambhala Center is located) to "home" - Page and MG's house on Queen St West, the old hip neighborhood, now gentrified and condoified to the hilt.
The results are up on Flickr and will continue to be posted there daily (www.flickr.com/photos/herspiral). What we are studying is stuff that builds on the basics of the first levels - wherein we study color, light, texture, space, dot in space...the five major elements of our visual (and John would say, phenomenological) experience. Now, we are being asked to re-incorporate these (literally, within bodies) into daily experience. I am shooting scenes, things with plot, stuff that was called accidental or not on topic when I was shooting the basic levels. I have totally left earth, and yet, as John says about Level Three "somehow it all just hangs together". Like a satellite.
Last night MG and I went to a Toronto Maple Leafs game, courtesy of one of his clients from work, for free. Neither of us had ever been to a major sporting event, me in the states (eg Packers game) or him in Toronto, and going to an NHL game was some serious culture shock after day in day out of Miksang. I took photos, of course (those, too, on Flickr), but nothing can capture people excited for fights. MG said the saying in Canada is "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out". There weren't a ton of fights - only 2 in a two hour game, but the way the refs let them keep fighting until one of the players signals its time to end was, well, weird. Especially with big sticks and sharp skates around. It also emphasized the ironic grace of hockey - big clumsy outfits, horribly awkward aiming and shooting with a long stick, but in a constant, fluid, seldom- falling-over movement.
Strange graces. Ordinary Chaos (another word for Level Three). Have I left earth? Sometimes the biggest culture shock is in a country so like my own, same language, similar culture, and yet totally different. I have been to Canada a few times, Toronto most of those trips, yet this time, on my own with my camera and ears and afternoons to myself, I am getting a deeper sense. Funny how in the states I might say that I had left earth doing all this shooting. But being here I am reminded how different I can be, how different the world is from itself, while still being on earth. So I am still here. All of this is still here. I rejoice and charge batteries, ready to see more.