Until today, my seat in the zendo was on “officers row” -- the tan southwest of the altar that’s anchored on one end by our former Abbess, and filled in with the meditation cushions of the Zen Center officers. Sitting in the Secretary’s seat, I faced the wall, and myself, and an old Zen conundrum about whether facing the wall is facing in or facing out.
But today I have a new seat, the Ino’s seat, which faces not the wall, but the vast expanse of the zendo, and the backs of all those people who still get to luxuriate in wall-facing. I’m now the Ino of Beginner’s Mind Temple, and I’m feeling very much a beginner as I try to remember the ten thousand pieces of this job, the ten thousand pieces of my life that brought me to this seat. Excitement and terror arise at this intimacy of not knowing, at this incompetence that grips my breath like a too-tight jacket. Yet, there is also the wonder of the unknown, the shy anticipation of what might be, and the delight of the unexpected way in which, somehow, it all works.
After decades of sitting in zendos, I belatedly realized that the purpose of meditation is not to make any progress nor to get anything done. The purpose of meditation is to come home. (Zen master Dōgen called zazen “the full investigation of the homeward course.”)
And I wonder: Can we find our way home, regardless of which way we are facing?