I live in a Zen center. It’s not a vihara, wat, monastery, hermitage, rectory, friary, priory, skete, lavra, convent, abbey, cloister, charterhouse, or any combination of them. It’s like some of them more than others, and there are times when I wish it were like others more than it is.
It’s quiet, and I like that. It looks and feels like a place where practice occurs, and I like that, too. No space in it is exclusively mine, but that’s just fine with me. There’s not a lot of space for keeping a lot of personal stuff, either, but I don’t have much anyway, so that’s cool. The 2nd floor kitchen sink and bathroom tub drain slowly, but otherwise the place is in excellent repair.
I live alone, except when my daughter or an out-of-town friend visits, or when there’s sesshin, or when there’s an overnight guest of the center. The first floor space is available for sangha business throughout the day and when there are sittings, so there is some come-and-go traffic, but not a lot and nothing distracting.
Someone once said to me that living here was like living in a fishbowl, but I’ve not found that to be the case at all. It may help that it’s been a Zen Center to me for 14 years and home for just over 14 weeks; I kind of knew what I was getting into. To tell the truth, sometimes I wish people didn’t feel so compelled to hightail it out of here after a sitting in the name of accommodating me.
I like that my move-in date and my ordination date were less than a week apart. I will essentially have always lived here as a priest, as a home-leaver. I don’t know how long I will stay here. I’m not looking to move out, but I’m also not inclined to say I’m going to live here for the rest of my life. I do know that this isn’t a “time out” from my normal life. This is the new normal, or at least a variation on it.
Perhaps it’s all for the best that living here is not like living in other kinds of religious houses. I don’t know. As with most everything else connected with this new life of mine, there’s no definite form, not too many people to share it with, and yet no limits to how far I can run with it. It always seems to come back to that, doesn't it...?