Blog 3: Zen, Football, and Things

Living about 5km from campus, I am very reliant on the trams to get where I need to go. I was surprised, then, when the workers union for the trams and buses of the city of Cologne decided to go on strike to push for higher salaries! Unfortunately, I had class that day, so I had to figure out some other way to get into the city! So, I walked, with another friend, to the closest regional train station (the regional trains weren’t on strike), which was a lovely 40 minute walk, to finally continue on with my day. Although I was told later that strikes like this happen very rarely in Cologne, I learned recently that there is another day long strike tomorrow!  On the bright side of things, it could be a lot worse. For example, there are two sections of my class. The section I’m in is the afternoon section (2:15pm – 5:30pm). However, I could have been placed easily into the morning section (8:45am – 12pm)!

My week has been, overall, enjoyable though. Yesterday, I went to a Kwan Um School of Zen for their weekly evening practice session. We did some bowing, chanting, two 30 minute sessions of sitting meditation (called zazen), and a little bit of walking meditation (which I think is called Kinhin). I’ve practiced zazen on my on before, so the 1 hour of total sitting meditation was much more manageable for me than I believe it could have been for others.  The hardest part, though, was noticing that a couple minutes into the first sitting meditation, I got what felt like the worst running nose ever (I either have allergies, or caught the common cold), and had to just observe it run all across my lower face (I think you’re supposed to avoid breaking form!).  Now, I don’t identify as Buddhist (or any religion, for that matter), but I think that much of the Zen philosophy resonates with me, so I definitely had a good experience, and am willing to go back again. Going back would also give me the excuse to learn some sutras in German. Funny story, too!: One of the guys I met there, someone who was born and raised in Cologne, turned out to be a huge Steelers fan! Who would have guessed? Football isn’t very popular in Germany, and the person I met said that even those who are more in touch with football don’t know who the Steelers are!