Getting up 2 hours before the call of breakfast with much resistance from the autumn cold and fatigue after the last 5-day sesshin, I started cleaning out the room. I flipped through 2 and a half years of things stocked up with little awareness of having them at all... notebooks, private messages, receipts, bus tickets, condoms, hand and foot cream. Sometimes coming across things that I wanted to use completely but failed to do so... 6 unfinished notebooks bought with my imagination of putting in cooking recipes, japanese lessons, daily thoughts/sketches to the last pages... of these filled up pages, they hardly add up to a single notebook... The three books on feldenkrais method, a Maria Rainer Rilke book of poetry will all regrettably go back into the antaiji library without any hope of reading another word of them ever again.
Clearing out the emotional space of a closet is harder than deciding what to put away or keep in the sotoshokudo closet every month during big cleaning. Looking at sheets of facial masks i imagined myself using two years ago, unfinished plans, unread repair instructions... of the many things that stay in this room, i have only used less than a quarter of them... I've realized that things that are important to me are invisible to myself and have been lost many times outside in public areas... my muddy Casio watch, the cellphone, the macbook, the camera, my red sweater. What a relief that they add up to less than half a backpack of things that goes down the mountain with me next year in Spring.
Sometime ago, I joked that I have to buy new clothes when getting back to society, my fashion sense must be outdated for three years. The latest model of smartphone which my father gave me generously two years ago is now too old for the latest version of Skype... much to my frustration... that I have to be limited to facebook conversations and writing letters with my boyfriend far away.
A newer version of macbook, more chocolates to eat, a place to put up a dream house, more time for vacation, more books to read, more life experiences to get... Of the endless things around me and my desires to get these things only makes me realize how little things I've really used and how little time remains for me to get what I "deserve" to have... In the recent ceremony for the past abbots of Antaiji, Sawaki's robe was exhibited in the Hondo. Tragically, possessions that outlived us end up replacing us when we are finally dead, how many times in his life did Sawaki really wore that robe?
Close to 3 years have passed, soon I will be forced to keep up with the latest technology to use Skype, to become invisible and not stick out with my bald head out in the public, or to leave the 80s jumper pants from the futon room to the next antaiji practitioner and finally wear clothes of woman sizes.
Since, I can't bring with me any fashionable clothes out of Antaiji, neither can I claim that I have some special powers that I can bring out of Antaiji into the world. Although, I chose to come to the monastery to possess some strength of myself that I can rely on. But only realizing how weak I am when my legs shake from climbing up the roof to fix the rain gutters, and when I feel pain in my knees from my past clumsiness at work.
From the 5th book of Zuimonki, chapter 20, "At the top of a hundred foot pole, advance one step further." Dogen mentioned that there are practitioners who practice for the sake of not other people but themselves. They are the ones who have not yet advanced from the hundred foot pole. In reflecting on myself, I like to be faster with cleaning and be more knowledgeable with plants or herbs... Thinking that I can be better the way I want to be, have the knowledge that I want to have and help the other people more, but maybe what the other people needed me to do is to take care of another person, to communicate myself more carefully at this very moment... which are really difficult for me.
How is that being more stronger than I was before when learning how to show up in front of the other people and cleaning out the closet still gives me the reluctance to forget myself and "advance one step forward" from the hundred foot pole? How can I say that I have become more independent than before when my life has only been maintained by the tight schedule of the monastery?
What remains of myself after I leave this mountain? At least, I can still keep the dirty Casio watch that goes off at 0345 every morning.