Into the Heart of the Matter

This afternoon Jan and I dragged ourselves into our Pawtucket house after a two hour drive home from Worcester by way of Wellesley.

I needed to stop and pick up a prescription renewal. Ah, the joys of aging…

And aged I felt. Seven days of sesshin, touching the heart-mind. In the Zen community we’re used to, should we tell someone we were on retreat, to hear “hope you had a relaxing time.” Old hands tend just to nod, maybe say yes. The real answer is rather longer, but in truth it doesn’t have a lot to do with relaxation…

The day with Boundless Way sesshins at the Worcester Zen Temple begin at four thirty in the morning and then run pretty hard, including about nine hours of meditation, together with liturgy, including formal oriyoki meals, a little work, and some rest periods. Not quite as rough a schedule as in some communities, but nothing for the faint of heart to try…

To add in a little variety we ordained two unsui priests and had a jukai ceremony.

Three of our BowZ teachers were present for the whole retreat, and the fourth was able to be present for the jukai and ordination ceremonies. There were thirty seven of us, a little lighter attendance than we’re used to. Mostly old hands, only three had never sat sesshin before.

One of our younger members wears on her arm a small tattoo that reads in Tibetan, “impermanence.”

(And, yes, so many delicious ironies in a tattoo reading impermanence…)

It all echoes the nightly call at retreat.

Let me respectfully remind you:
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken… awaken…
Take heed: Do not squander your life.

I feel the aches and pains I’ve returned with.

I think of the hours.

The deep silences.

The encounters in the interview room.

The tears.

The laughter.

The intimacy.

Oh, the intimacy of our little band.

All of us dedicated to seeing into the heart of the matter.

Following Zen’s path of fierce introspection…

Into the heart of the matter.

And my heart is filled with gratitude.

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