So my teacher took me aside yesterday after zazen and voiced some concern regarding my physical ability to handle life at the monastery. I think many here would have gotten upset by being told that they may not be able to physically cut it. I've been disabled since I was 15--not being "able to physically cut it" is old hat for me. Besides, he's absolutely right. I may not. I appreciated his candor when he said "Your disability won't be taken into account". Yes, on one hand that hurt. Of course it did. But on the other hand, I wouldn't physically cut it as a fireman or a surgeon, either. You can't always expect the world to "treat you fairly". Some things just require physical abilities that some don't have. I know it sounds a bit odd that living in a monastery is one of them, but the physical aspect of the monastery--the hard rigorous schedule and physical labor--is part of the whole deep-practice process. I value what that level of practice does for people in my sangha; I wouldn't want it dumbed down just so I could be there.

But he is most concerned that we just don't know how I'd do, and he'd rather not have a failure happen for a number of good reasons. I told him that I was okay with failure if it happens. He smiled and said "But I'm not". I mentioned that a failure wouldn't affect my desire or determination to keep practicing, and he understood and accepted that. What he's offering me is to come up for a solid week and see how it goes. Sort-of a try-before-you-buy approach, which I think has real merit to it.

But on the other hand, I've been really thinking about if this is what I want. Yes, it's a good time to do it, but at the same time, a few thoughts have bubbled up for me this past week--mostly in zazen--and ignoring them would not be wise.

I want a space of my own. I've never ever had that my whole life. Ever. I am beginning to understand that that very thing may be important to me, or at least my psyche. Also, I really want to be here in Portland to help with the establishment of our city Zen center. I really believe in that mission, and I want to be a part of it. I will not be able to do as much in that regard if I'm living 70 miles away.

Part of me is worried that I may be trying to run away to the monastery. That's a poor motivation. There is no question that I have a desire to serve my sangha, but at the same time, I may not be serving its best interests by attempting residency. That may just be the simple truth of the matter. And more than anything, at this time in my life, I'm about the truth.

So we're a bit more back up in the air about things again. I'm okay with that. "Up in the air" isn't "laying shattered to pieces on the floor", is it?

Well, whether I live at the monastery or not, the first test starts in a few hours when I head up there to do a Beginner's Mind retreat for the weekend. This will be the first time I stay there over night. The schedule's lighter than regular daily monastic life, but it's a taste. We'll see how it goes. In the truest Zen fashion, that's the best anyone can do...