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My Sesshin moment: a realisation – Guro Shoshin Huby

Sesshin used to be an even more special place than it is today, and that is saying something. Sesshin was Special because this was where that SOMETHING was going to happen. Exactly what that SOMETHING was was not clear to me, and I couldn’t put it into words. I don’t think I even realised I was waiting for anything; the practice of Zen is precisely not waiting for anything and I am, if anything, a diligent if at times a bit clueless, student of Zen. But at some level I knew that one day Sesshin was going to lead me there. I was going to penetrate the mysteries of the dharma, I was going to realise that SOMETHING.

Then when I finally had my Sesshin moment and met a SOMETHING it brought me crashing down to earth with a somewhat uncomfortable, but extremely productive, bump.

It was an October sesshin, after an afternoon or evening sitting, as we filed out of the zendo. I could see my reflection in the dark window. My face was pale and drawn. Mind numb and muscles aching, I moaned to myself: “this is not going well. It is really hard. I am not sure I can do this”. It was the third or fourth day and I really should have settled in, but I was all over the place.

And then it hit me: I could sit there till the cows came home, BUT NOTHING WAS EVER GOING TO CHANGE! EVER.

A Zen response might have been to laugh, but I did nothing of the sort. I was annoyed, I was angry, I felt betrayed. Why did nobody TELL me !!?? Well, allright, I know, we all, including me, go on about the goalless goal and gateless gate all the time, but why did nobody tell me loud enough so I could HEAR it??

Whatever, I’d had it with meditation, I’d had it with Zen, I’d had it with the practice, I’d had it with the lot of you (StoneWater people). I was leaving and I was never coming back.

But I knew I wouldn’t leave and of course I didn’t.

I am very grateful for that moment in the corridor of Crosby, an October evening after a particularly painful 3 periods of sitting. My realisation was extremely useful and productive and has opened up my practice in a number of ways.

That Sesshin moment has changed the experience of Sesshin for me, mostly for the better I hasten to say. Sesshin is no longer a place set apart from my everyday. It is part of my muddling through life, albeit, I like to tell myself, with a clearer focus and sharper and yet more open mind than usual. And in extremely good company.

But the mystery has shattered. Sometimes I miss the times when Sesshin was a place of mystery and magic. The place where that SOMETHING was going to happen, back in the days when I was, somehow, more innocent.