My Name is Markus and I’m from Austria. I arrived mid October in Antaiji. I’ve heard of this place about ten years ago when I first read one of Muho-Sans Book and it never left my mind since then. I didn’t have the plan to come to Antaiji right away but it was like a seed planted in the back of my mind. On my spiritual path along the way I met a lot of different people with various spiritual backgrounds but Zen was always the ground to fall back on. Though I tried different spiritual ways and traditions only Zen felt natural to me and my personality. I’ve worked the last twelve years or so mostly in hospitality but decided two years ago to give my spiritual longing a go in terms of life orientation and day to day living.

I found a place in Austria called Puregg which fitted perfectly to start with. It’s a Zen-Retreat-Center in the Alps. Founded by Kobun (a fellow Japanese Zen Priest in Tassajara/USA of Shunryu Suzuki), David Steindl-Rast (a famous Christian Monk and author) and Entrepreneur Vanja Palmers, a Zen priest himself. It’s basically a Retreat Center with different courses from different teachers, mostly Zen, and a kind of monastic life in between. It was a perfect place to get a first taste of a life in a Monastery.

And there through a short time visitor I heard of Antaiji again and I thought, why not give it a go. Out of the blue I wrote  to Eko-San asking about terms and conditions about a stay in Antaiji. I didn’t expect much from it but a couple of days later we spoke via Skype and after that it was pretty much set. I would go to Antaiji. Honestly I didn’t think much about whether I should make this huge step or not. It just happened to me and I went with the flow.

So I arrived in Antaiji in October and they have probably been the most intense weeks in my life. I came here to find something I wasn’t even sure of what it was and probably still don’t. But I feel I’m going in the right direction. Zazen, Soji and Samu, are the backbone of life in Antaiji. Meditation, Cleaning and Working. But there is no ranking between them as everything is spiritual practice. Every task you are taking on should be done wholeheartedly. This is tough especially in the beginning (where I still consider myself to be in) when your body aches under the heavy labor and the pain during zazen. But the pain derives rather from my resistance and monkey mind than the actual situation. I feel that the physical and mental challenges help me to find calmness. The formal ways in which we eat, hold our teammeetings, leave or enter the Hondo (the meditation hall) seem complicated in the beginning but after you get used to them you see the beauty of this formalities and they actually help you to
stay focused on the present moment.

I feel I have lost my comfort zone after I entered Antaiji. I just recognized this  after a couple of weeks of my stay here and I don’t miss it. The challenge of living a life without a safety net is sometimes almost unbearable. It pushes you out in the direct, uncomfortable and wonderful encounter with life itself. Maybe it’s that what I’m looking for.