Monday, October 12, 2015

The Deep End

Steve Weintraub had us all laughing during his dharma talk on Saturday when he likened Zen practice to being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool  and calling it a swim lesson. I laughed especially hard, as I have had this very image in my mind these past few weeks. Only my version includes former City Center Inos and supportive others shouting all sorts of mostly encouraging things from the pool deck as I'm flailing. They must have learned the same way. While this whole Zen "learning process" appears (and even often feels) totally insane, I hope I wouldn't keep taking the bait into the deep end if I didn't also have some sense of this being the wisest thing I could possibly do to restore myself to sanity.

In my experience, being in the deep end hasn't become any easier. The flailing feels mostly the same  terrifying. I can't stand it. But I stay, because I know there is nowhere else to go. And the more I stay, the more I trust this wild place. I think of the depiction of Aslan as "not safe, but good" in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The ego isn't safe here, and it knows this. But what about our freedom? 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Who is this urban Ino?

I have been asking myself this question. And perhaps some of you have also been wondering about this new Ino. I look forward to getting to know her with you.

It has been a wild ride for me these past couple weeks at city center. And not only because there have been at least 7 special ceremonies, a one-day sit, and a half-new doanryo since I was thrown in the deep end of Inohood. The last time I set foot in the city center zendo was 5 years ago during my first zen center practice period. Two years prior, I took my first step into the zendo as a guest student, receiving my first zazen instructions from the work leader. As I move about the building now, wearing this new, not yet worn in Ino hat, I catch glimpses of these former selves everywhere. I see her praying for the bell to ring to end zazen in the zendo, crying in the Ino's office during her first sesshin, and swearing she can't stand the pain of sitting one more period in the zendo. I also see her happy and at ease, grateful that she's found a community and spiritual practice that finally feels like home. And then I see her gliding down the back staircase and slipping out the lily alley door, curious about meeting the wider world again and again as soon as she steps out of the temple and onto the city streets. 
During my first practice discussion while I was a guest student, a teacher explained to me the concept of one's life as a spiral. I might feel like I'm in the same place I've been before, he said, but in fact I have circled back around and am now at a different point on the spiral. So here I am again some years later, after spending 3 of them in the monastery, experiencing what it is to be this me again at 300 Page St. 
Thank you for inviting me back into this home to practice with you. I feel an incredible amount of gratitude for everyone who sets foot in this mysterious building. May we continue to do this totally weird, beautiful, made-up thing together, supporting each other in each moment to keep waking up.