Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Summary so far

About my past I will perhaps say little at this point. Last year (June 2005) I graduated with a masters in Adult Education from Oregon State University, quit my job (10 years with Head Start as an adult educator -- that's one of my many previous lives), and moved in to the Dharma House residence of Dharma Rain Zen Center (take a look at the website -- I didn't design it, but I do maintain it).

In October I officially became a postulant, which means that I've been trying on the role of monk. I didn't shave my head, though my hair has been buzzed short for quite a while now, but I did start dressing the way monks dress and taking direction from others at the Center. As postulant, I have been junior to everyone, and in training for a variety of new tasks. I haven't had any responsibility or authority, and have in fact been told more than once to be careful not to direct anything. That's a very large change from the managerial position I held in my previous job. Being a postulant involves making lots of mistakes and learning not to be perfect, to forgive myself, and other things like that.

I have no ordination date set, but I suspect it will be some time this fall. I have been sewing my monk robes (kimono, koromo, okesa, and zagu), and they are very close to being finished. In the mean time, it's summer, we're on summer schedule, which means that there's very little actually on the schedule. So I'm on my own much of the time. We have few people around during the day, but I still get up relatively early, water the gardens every other day, take a walk most days, sit meditation for an hour almost every day, eat breakfast, and start on whatever tasks are set before me. I've always been good at seeing these, so I'm never really bored or at a loss for what to do.

The other thing summer means is that I've been told I have to get out of the house and take vacations. As a postulant, I've had to ask permission to leave the campus (which consists of the House, the Zendo [temple building], and the Sangha House [another residence up the street]). I've been contented to stay here most of the time, with only a few forays out into the world. I've never been refused permission to leave, but I still rarely ask. Now I'm being told to get out of the house, so I'm scheduling trips and visits with friends.

Part of the purpose of the postulancy year is to determine whether this is really the right path for me, whether I still believe at the end of this time that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. From the time I finally gave in to whatever pull this is and agreed to go forward with it, things have fallen into place and I can see how right they are. This is all still true, and I can say that I am more contented with my life right now than I have ever been. It has not been a particularly tranquil year, definitely not an easy year (though the first few months were easy, and I thought I would skate through this whole thing -- wrong!), but it has been full and satisfying, and it is clear to me that this is where I belong.

When I'm ordained, I will be considered a novice monk, or sometimes we call it a junior monk. I will take 5-year vows to serve this temple and continue with training and take instruction from my teachers. I suspect I will continue to get training in priestcraft (ceremonial duties, things like interviews, workshop teaching, etc.) as well as continuing to explore my own karma and how to work with it in the context of Zen Buddhism. There are times when I feel like I know quite a bit, and other times when I feel like a complete babe starting out, knowing almost nothing. Maybe that's just the human condition.


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