In order to wrap up my business affairs, I returned home from the monastery on October 3. I had hoped it would take a week to sell two dump trucks and my client base. There was existing interest in the trucks, and negotiations for the client base were already under way. One week became two, and two became three. I returned to the monastery on October 29. Potential buyers for the trucks would stop responding to emails, or make appointments and either disappear or reschedule then disappear or change their minds. The buyer for the client base was simply just busy, running his business and taking care of his family. Meetings had to be repeatedly rescheduled. On top of that, there was a seemingly endless list of issues to tend to with banks, insurance companies and more. I began to wonder if I would make it back to the monastery before November, or even December.
The longer I was home, the more antsy I got about not returning to Dai Bosatsu, and the more I enjoyed being at home, allowing thoughts of doubt about going monastic to arise. I also found myself getting closer to a woman I had met in late summer. We both share a deep devotion to spiritual paths, so her support in my monastic commitment is strong. And yet getting to know each other made an inevitable parting all the more difficult.
Meanwhile, the amount of stuff I had to sort through for storing or selling or giving away or recycling or throwing away seemed to grow, not decrease as I went. I found myself very frustrated with the amount of stuff I have, which really isn’t that much, and most of it being useful or meaningful things I want for my eventual post-monastery home. I found myself wishing I could just make a clean cut from everything and be at DBZ with no ties or thoughts to the “outside” world.
Then I remembered a fundamental tenet of Buddhism: deal with what is, as it is, in the moment, free of fear, confusion or attachment to outcome. Whoops! I had lost sight of that, was trying to ignore the present circumstances, imagining some “better” situation in a future time and place. This is one of the basic causes of mental suffering, one that is so easy for us to fall in to, and is really a massive waste of precious time and energy. And we never get that time and energy back.
Recognizing this, I released myself from all the tension I had created… the agitated state of wanting business matters to be over, the frustration of all the possessions to organize and relocate, the increasing sadness of an approaching “goodbye” with Alice…just allowing all the joy and sadness to coexist. As a lay order, Hollow Bones makes use of life in the world as the training vehicle; our responsibilities to self and others, our relationships, our jobs, our families, our possessions, our joyful and painful experiences, all of it can be used both as motive and mirror to reflect our state of consciousness, to practice opening our minds and instead of contracting, to “listen without an opinion,” rather than distorting what is presented to us with filters of conditioning and beliefs.
The next thing I knew I had a buyer for the second dump truck (and fascinatingly he happened to know someone who had been at DBZ earlier this year). The truck had developed an engine issue so he offered much less than I wanted for it, but I could even accept that with equanimity and gratitude, and closed the deal as such. That same day I signed an agreement with Refugia Design to pay me a percent of sales for my client list. Again, I would have liked more for the deal, but also saw that the owner was being supportive of my endeavor and offering what he could within his means. I was happy to accept. By the end of the week my apartment was empty and clean. The relief and joy to have all the essential elements of my life resolved was profound. It also helped me reflect on how subtle and insidious the resistance and frustration I had built up was, how the ego can waste one’s life in a vicious circle of trying to push certain things away, and to grasp and hold others. Another core tenet of Buddhism, finding “the middle way” in situations became clearer yet again: find that point between “going with the flow” and taking action and choosing direction. And what better practice is there to develop this ability than meditation?
I should say my insight came in large part by the support of an excellent book on Zen. While home, I was reading Shodo Harada’s book, “The Path to Bodhidharma.” Harada is a contemporary Roshi of the Rinzai sect (which I am part of) in Japan and the U.S. His writing is clear and direct and cuts through to ultimate wisdom and truth with no hesitation or verbosity. If you are a Zen Buddhist or are curious to learn more, I highly recommend it. The book essentially covers foundational understanding, practice technique and spirit, and integration of practice in to worldly life. If you do read it, please let me know your thoughts about it.
The goodbye with Alice was a sweet heartache for us. How can it be that we would meet just before I leave for two years, nine months? We can but humble ourselves to the mystery and see how life unfolds, accepting, flowing and working with what is. I am back at DBZ now, and settling in to the routine and practice again. I see clearly that the time at home was not a distraction from practice but the living practice itself. Every moment is. That is all there is. This life, right now. How shall I see it? How shall I experience it? How shall I respond? I am ineffably grateful to be in a powerful training container that supports me in cultivating the ability to answer those questions from clarity and openness and compassion. Tomorrow starts a five-day silent retreat. I look forward to telling you how it was…