Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Last week: Three guest students arrived to experience a few days of Buddhist temple life. 

This week: All three of them decided to stay for the ten-week practice period.

What is it that suddenly shifts within us, taking us beyond a simple change of plans to a whole new itinerary?  What is it that finally has the courage to leap, after years (maybe decades) of skirting the edges?  Where does the faith come from that the chasm is now worth exploring?  Is it because we suspect there’s a garden there, a refuge, some friends?

Temple life connotes renunciation, strict schedules, unfathomable procedures, endless forms.  Yet, three people (plus the other 50 or so that were already here) just entered this life willingly!  Whatever for?

Because we're tired of our habits.  Because we have some vague sense that our routine might be making us miserable.  So we put ourselves in a schedule and a practice that’s about as far from routine as one might imagine. This brings the habits to the fore, kicking and screaming.  “I want…,” they demand.  “I’m used to…,” they yell.   But there we sit, facing a wall in quiet semidarkness while the habits rage, while the voiceover of fantasy and daydream yammers on.  Stephen Batchelor wrote:

Evasion of the unadorned immediacy of our life is as deep-seated as it is relentless.

So we sit, not fighting the habits, yet not submitting to their demands.   And at some point, the soundtrack softens, grows quiet, listens.   At some point, we discover the ease and joy of just cooperating with the way things are, rather than insisting that they conform to us.  At some point, we discover that sitting is leaping. 


Farmer monk said...

This is wonderful to hear; I'm inspired to leap from the GGF farm season to the practice period, which actually feels like a big leap!

I feel my own heels digging in. After 8 months, who knew after leaving home to come to Zen Center, I'd have to "leave" Zen Center to go to Zen Center?

If these 3 can do it, I guess I can too, but it doesn't feel easy!

Myomon said...

How fantastic. I wonder how people can just up and stay, though. Wonder, and marvel, and rejoice. My first week at CC as a guest student, I never wanted to leave - but job, responsibilities, cats....anyway, my leap has been a long swan dive and isn't done yet.

emanon said...

this post evokes such a sweet memory - the first time i walked in the door after years of standing outside and wondering. and once inside the temple walls i knew i was home.

there were years of sitting and years of following my mind escape out the window lured by whatever sounds were ready to take me to another story - creek, ocean, birds, city life.

and finally there was quiet.

welcome guest students.

Sierra said...

thank you for this post valorie. for me, this was what attracted me to zazen at the beginning. i wanted to see what would happen if i lived in a very different way for a length of time. it was definitely an incredibly valuable life changing experience to sit daily and live in a nourishing community!