On becoming a monk 2. Suzanne

My name is Suzanne Adey.  I have been a Counsellor and Therapist for about fifteen years.  I joined StoneWater Zen Sangha nine years ago during a difficult time in my life.  At that time my marriage was ending and I was trying to extricate myself from a very complex situation.  My job was demanding and stressful and I was struggling, it seemed, on every level.

My friend Peter persuaded me to attend an evening at the dojo on an evening when Tenshin Roshi was giving a pre sesshin talk.  Under duress I went along.  I had no expectations about it but was surprised to find I felt drawn to Tenshin and to the practice.  From then on I continued to attend on a weekly basis for several months before I went on my first sesshin.  In those early days I had a love hate relationship with the practice.  I was rebellious and fought, often passive aggressively, with the structure, form, and as I then perceived it, rules.  Yet I continued to attend and embraced Keizan Sensei as my much loved and valued teacher.  Parallel to my rebellion ran a longing for what I knew somewhere deep down inside, the practice could help me to find.  In retrospect I can now see that a battle raged within me between wanting on one hand separation, individuality, autonomy and control; and on the other, oneness and freedom from the individual self.

This was not a comfortable time for me.  Strong feelings of rage, sadness and despair would rise up in me, especially on sesshin.  However, I could not leave and knew I had to see this through.  Eventually, the fight somehow burned itself out – or maybe I just decided to let it go.  I can’t remember exactly how it happened or when, but my energy shifted to one of acceptance and surrender to the practice.  This transformed my experience of zen practice as I began to allow myself to love it and to love the sangha.  Gradually, I relaxed into the form and structure of practice and it just became a part of who I am.  I no longer regard it as a separate entity to myself – which makes it difficult to talk about when people ask me ‘Why do you want to become a monk?  What does that mean?  What difference will it make?’  The only answer I can come up with is ‘I don’t know’ which may sound pretentious and smell of zen, and yet it’s the truth.  Of course, in real life I have a tendency to make something up that sounds plausible in order to oil the social cogs.  However, the fact is I don’t know what difference it will make, I can’t give a hard and fast answer to why I’m doing it, and I don’t know what it means for me except that it feels like natural progress.

Over the past nine years my life has transformed and I am much happier, more content and fulfilled than I have ever been before.  I’m convinced that my involvement in this practice has been a major contributing factor to that.  So, in that respect, why wouldn’t I want more of that?