"There will always only be something to give up and nothing to take away."
As I was planning to come to Antaiji, a couple of my Dharma friends responded with something along the lines that, in Zen practice, no matter where you go or what your circumstances are, there’s no escape: you always end up having to face yourself.
At the time I think that statement was made to suggest that I could practice anywhere so there was no reason to go to a monastery. While that's true to a degree, the change in circumstances has given me a lot of new 'self' material to work with. Whereas I was comfortable with my practice before, its obvious to me that, here, I am falling short. Though I’ve been mediating for more than 20 yrs, I am new to Zen and have minimal experience with Zen protocol and rituals, the Japanese language, and I'm female, older and less able physically compared others here. Also, being older, I’m less flexible mentally. While trying to memorize and remember one protocol, I become absent-minded with regard to others. (There’s a bit of truth to the ‘absent-minded professor’.. ) Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen a Zen monastery to retreat to, given the lack in experience. At any rate, I’m here now and to summarize what I am feeling, whereas before I got here my practice (and zazen in particular) was a source I could always turn to for a bit of peace of mind, right now, nothing could be farther from the truth. I also know that, in spite of these short-comings and difficulties, I have a certain amount of faith originating from my past experience given that sitting has ‘saved’ me more than once. So I haven't given up. But I can only speak for this moment… and as I say that, I smile, because this moment is all there ever is.