Almost twenty years ago, I sat on the front porch of a rustic A-frame perched on a ridge overlooking the campus of Zen Mountain Monastery. It was nearing midnight. Inside, my housemates, also in Zen Training at ZMM, were asleep.
Over the course of the past six months, it had become increasingly clear that the rigid, hard-driving, and unabashedly authoritarian nature of the Roshi's Eight Gates of Zen Residential Training didn't ring true to me. For sure, I was grateful to have experienced some openings at ZMM and made some new friends. Yet, to be honest, the community culture at Zen Mountain Monastery wasn't all that different than the outside world. It seemed like the same old story. Business as usual in a capitalist society.
I wasn't. And, as best I can tell, neither are you!
I wish it was always that easy.
My tour of duty at Zen Mountain Monastery was, I think, the final time I barked my shins on the way up that particular wrong tree. I have realized, in my bones, that the true spiritual journey for me was one of Connection, not separation from, what Zorba the Greek called the "full catastrophe"of Life. When push comes to shove, I'm not seeking any more big bang experiences. I no longer think of enlightenment that way. Enough is enough.
Although I didn't have a clear idea of what it would like as I left ZMM, I knew in my heart of hearts that I just wanted to help out, to serve, to do my best to try to make this a kinder world. This was nothing new, I've known that since I was a kid. In launching off into the unknown, I was coming hOMe to my heart's deepest aspiration.
What more could one wish for?