For the last 6 months, I've been in practice period. More or less, that means I've worked little and sat and studied more. A typical day would look like this:
Get up at 3 am and study The Lankavatara. Make tea for the abbess at 4am. Sit zazen in the zendo until 6:30am, then chant. Temple cleaning until silent breakfast. Work on the farm until lunch, go to noon service, do bows, chant, eat. Short work period after lunch. Rest for 2 hours! Study hall at 4pm. Zazen 5pm. Dinner at 6pm. Class or zazen at 7:30 until 9pm. Sleep, and do it again.
We had one day off a week, which started when you woke up and ended with a period of zazen around 7:30. We also had sesshins, celebrated Rohatsu, celebrated Buddha's parinirvana, and some of us practiced yaza, or late night sitting, which was encouraged but not mandatory. Some of us sat for 36 hours straight during the last sesshin. To watch the sun come up and down and up again is an amazing experience, though at times frigid. But you were awake!
And it had to end, eventually. So many wonderful people, mostly full time house holders, went back home and back to their work. We had electricians from Canada and ranchers from Montana. We had some kids just out of high school, others just out of college. We had wandering writers and yogis. And we had a core of young practioners who have been here for a little over a year.
The day after it ended, my wife and I boarded a plane to Mexico, last stop Holbox Island off the Yucatan. We had to take a ferry to get on the sandy roads of Holbox, population 2000. And there we met no Americans, stayed in a wonderful palapa, walked the beaches, ate tacos and empenadas, and hung out with 15 amazing international friends from Holland, Spain, France, Germany, and Mexico.
I went from waking at 3am to sleeping in until 6:30am! We threw a party for our 2 year anniversary. We drank mohitos and margaritas and many celebratory shots with our friends. And most of the time my question was where is Kogen? What is Kogen?
From a black robe to bathing suit, reality fit like elastic. Right view, right action, right livelihood meant right now. And time went by very slowly. And yet, we had one more stop: Cancun, hotel zone, land of all you can drink and eat, land of mostly Americans, and we went for my brother in laws wedding.
There were more shots and even more shrimp. Sometimes I ate two hamburgers a day. And in the morning I would sit in the steam room, rotate to the cold plunge, and then into the sauna. I did zoomba on the beach. I dove into the waves. I danced until my feet hurt. Is this the life of a zen monk?
Of course it is! When I got back to the farm, our first job was planting about a quarter acre of potatoes. Is the life of a zen monk? Of course it is! It's really easy to see what is not the life of a zen monk, very difficult to see the life that is not separate from the life of a zen monk. Vacations and farm work, while you relax or curse about irrigation, are good tests. May it be so interesting.
Wonderful to be back though. I slipped into my robes in pure darkness this morning. The smell of eucalyptus and cold air let you know you are at Green Gulch. After each meal, I feel more healthy. And I'm exhausted already after just 2 days of potato planting, irrigation fixing, driving over the golden gate to deliver and pick up food, and building beautiful compost piles. It's 4:15am, almost time to make tea for the abbess.
How lucky am I?