Today, is the beginning of a three month intensive training period at the Zen Center I attend on Sundays. While one might think the main focus would be on meditation, what the Roshi (master teacher) actually spoke about was looking at ways we can stretch into our lives in other ways, and commit to it at least for three months. So while the residents at the Zen Center will be upping their time on the meditation cushion, those of us joining with them at home may sit more as well, but with Tenshin Roshi’s encouragement, perhaps we’ll look for ways in our lives we can do things differently and experience the same sense of stretch (the world he used) past out comfort Zone.
Often life asks us to expand past our comfort zone, without our permission, so it’s a good idea to practice doing this voluntarily, like an athlete training for a particular event. While they may be more prepared for that event they are also in better shape all around for other things that may demand extra energy.
When we go on a meditation retreat, a term sometimes used is “voluntary restriction”. We voluntarily simplify our lives and restrict our choices, by following a schedule, doing the work assigned to us, keeping silence and other guidelines at the monastery and eating what is served. I have found a great sense of strength in this, because let’s face it. life may throw involuntary restrictions at us and it’s a lot easier to face the unexpected waves if we know how to surf.