Some other place entirely

February 28th, 2008

It seems like it’s over even before it begins:

Inside the dokusan room, she bowed again, a full bow to the floor, then lifted from the waist and stayed seated. Maezumi Roshi sat two feet away. She spoke as she’d been told, stating her name and her “practice,” which was counting her breath, although she didn’t really know how to do it, or whether she did it at all.

He spoke. Are you a teacher?

No, she wasn’t a teacher. She had her own business in Houston, Texas. A public relations business for more than fifteen years, although she was going to sell it and change her life and all of that. And all of that.

And you came to Zen by?

Not by her parents, and not her training, not anyone in particular, not that, no, no reason at all. By a book, she half-lied, ashamed that an endlessly broken heart could send her tumbling all this way.

He nodded and talked. Kept talking and saying things she would not remember or ever repeat, streams of words assuring, encouraging and appreciative and she felt her face hot and wet and knew that she had been crying for some time. He asked her to turn sideways and he lightly touched her shoulders so they lifted, and he showed her how to relax her neck and lower her chin in posture. He was slowing down now, winding it up. Do you have a question, he asked, in courteous dismissal.

Yes, she seized, aiming to do her best. When I get up right now do I do a standing bow or a full bow?

He tossed his head back and laughed and called her sweet, and she caught her breath at the sound of the nickname only one other had ever called her. Smartness alone isn’t as nice, he said. She stood and bowed and left the room, walked back to her seat in the zendo and sat down in the spot where she started, in some other place entirely.

You could also try this place, or this place, or even stay right here.


  1. Beautiful story. I am sometimes scared before going to the teacher for dokusan. And when I’m there, it disappeares. Now I have to find courage to do my first sesshin (I am allways scared that I…will go crazy).

    Comment by Anonymous — February 28, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  2. You will go crazy. It is the kind of crazy called sanity.

    Comment by Karen — February 28, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  3. I saw a poem over at a friend’s blog that seemed appropriate for your theme this week. You can read the poem over at WoodMoor Village Zendo. (Nacho is also an interesting person, so you might peruse the rest of his blog.)

    Comment by Kathryn — February 28, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

  4. I’ve enjoyed reading this, and catching up on the earlier parts of the story.
    your writing stirs me.

    Comment by bella — February 28, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  5. I’m reading along in awe, as I struggle still against myself to sit for even short periods daily. I see myself getting sucked into wondering if it’s enough, if it’s worth it. The old all-or-nothing mind. All the time wondering, could that be me? It’s scary and tender.

    Comment by Jena Strong — February 28, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

  6. Jena, follow the self-doubt and you will inevitably find your teacher. I struggle to sit for even short periods daily by myself. That’s called ego. Yes, this is something that we do by ourselves BUT IT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT WE DO BY OURSELVES, because we will call the whole thing off and habitually retreat into our comfort zone, WHICH WILL ALWAYS PROVE TO BE OUR DISCOMFORT ZONE. You will one day step out and beyond that, and your teacher will be waiting for you. How do you like my all caps? I’m saying I CAN’T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH.

    Comment by Karen — February 28, 2008 @ 7:47 pm


    Comment by Jena Strong — February 28, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  8. Ahh! We hear each other loud and clear. That’s the first step.

    Comment by Karen — February 28, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  9. Reading this is very calming.

    Comment by Shelli — February 29, 2008 @ 2:41 am

  10. This story is perfect for me this week. Even though it is not sad, or even sentimental, and just pieces of something, I am shaken.

    Comment by denise — February 29, 2008 @ 4:41 am

  11. Thank you for the encouragement
    ;-). I plan to go in July. I will keep your words in mind.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 29, 2008 @ 8:11 am

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