“Aussie, we start a Zen retreat this evening. You won’t see much of me till later on Sunday.”

“What’s a Zen retreat?”

“A Zen retreat includes a lot of meditation, but mostly, we follow a schedule.”

“What schedule?”

“We get up at a certain time and start to sit. Then we do a liturgical service, followed by work. Then we have coffee. After that there’s a formal talk and we return to sit. After that we eat lunch and rest, followed by more sitting. Then we have dinner, sit again, and go to bed. Then we repeat.”

“What’s different about that?”

“What do you mean, Aussie?”

“You’re always following a schedule, even on regular days. Here you get up and sit in the morning. Then you feed me. Then you look at emails and news, get dressed, have breakfast. Then you walk Henry and me. Then you get to work. Early afternoon you have lunch and then a short rest. Then you get back to work. Then you feed me and take me for another walk. Then you get back to work. You have dinner, work some more, and at around 9 in the evening you start closing things up. You go upstairs, do different things up there, and then you fall asleep.”

“It’s not quite as boring as you say, Aussie. The work changes a lot.”

“But you’re always following a schedule. You do the same things at almost the same times every day. Sometimes you change things a bit, like you take me to Leeann instead of walking me. But you don’t improvise, you don’t do things spontaneously, you run by the clock!”

“You know, Auss, in older sesshins, you never looked at a clock. You didn’t wear watches. Certain bells and whistles told you what activity is next. There’s the kitchen bell that tells you it’s time to eat, and a service bell that tells you it’s time to do liturgy, and the strikes of the wooden han that tell you it’s time to sit, and drums that tell you it’s time for a formal talk.”

“But everything is done on time, right?”

“The idea is to simplify things, Auss. You don’t have to plan or think about what’s next, it’s always the same kind of activities and at the same time. Life is simpler that way, don’t you think?”

“No, I think it’s boring. I like to do what I want to do when I want to do it. You follow a schedule all the time, even when you’re not in retreat; only the activities change. In a retreat you sit on your butt. When the retreat ends, you sit on your butt on a chair at your desk, so what’s different? Is that a life?”

“What do you call a life, Aussie?”

“Recess. Life is recess. While you’re in retreat, I’ll have one long recess.”

“And what’ll you do during recess, Aussie?”

“I’ll probably just lie around and wait till you get home.”

The blog will be on retreat, or in recess, till Monday.

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