It began for me when I came home the night of the Dharma Inquiry Ceremony (Saturday, March 31st). I’d been out with a few friends but, glancing at my watch on my way up the stairs, still found that it was not even 9:00 pm. Even more surprising, however, was the thing I found at my doorstep – a note from the Ino (Head of the Meditation Hall) reminding me *not* to ring the wake up bell on Monday morning.
Of course, I thought. I’m no longer leading the life of the Shuso (Head Student or, more literally, Head Seat). I’m no longer the person who gets up before the required time to help everyone else by eliminating their need for an alarm clock and, thereby also eliminating their excuse for not being in the zendo (meditation hall) by 5:20 am. I didn’t need to be home early. And when I did get to the zendo, I would no longer seated facing into the room, toward the other sitters, the better for them to study my mudra (hand position) or facial expression while sitting in zazen (roughly, zen meditation). Strange.
I feel a bit like Alice after she fell into the rabbit hole. These days there seem to be some references to my previous life, but mostly it’s a curiously new world that I now inhabit. I suspect that this is really only my own perspective shifting to accommodate a lot of new experience crammed into the past 10 weeks, with a big bang at the end. But a few other people seem to be in on the trip too.
Funny, this sense of being spun around, especially since I had been forewarned by other shuso (the singular and plural are the same). One woman friend said, “Watch out. It’s not easy coming down off the mountain.” At the time I thought that it wouldn’t be so hard for me, as the one who is a bit wary of being put on a pedestal. And that part is more or less true.
But…now I am starting to see how comparing mind arises and wants to scrutinize each day to see how different it is than it was before. It wants to look for clues in words and phrases, and put together a picture of how the world will be now. The mind wants to find some security, building a framework so that all the new pieces will fit together in a tidy and orderly way. A brick here, a window there, and a roof, and soon enough I’ll have a house.
The only problem is that this is not reality. What really happens is that things change constantly, so constantly that I can’t even put my finger on one instant and say that it stays the same. So building a house, while a common and fairly normal thing to do, is actually making it harder to live. It blunts my senses. It reduces my ability to respond completely to the momentary arising.
So, if I’m smart, I’ll sit outside tonight and marvel at the clouds and the stars, and allow the simplicity of it to put my mind at ease.