First retreat, August 1968

I had been meditating for a year at the New York Zendo. This was my first week-long retreat. As my son and I were spending time on Fire Island that summer and could not be reached, I did not know that there had been a last-minute change of venue for the retreat, from the Episcopal Conference Center in Tuxedo Park, New York to the House of Renewal, run by Catholic nuns, in Litchfield, Connecticut. So I went to Tuxedo Park as scheduled, then was driven from there to Litchfield by a very gracious couple from the Episcopal Center. We arrived late that first night. Tai-san (Eido Shimano) welcomed me warmly. The Zendo had been unable to contact me, he said, and they had not expected me to show up at all.

I saw Soen Roshi the next day for the first time. He was the jikijutsu for the week and would sit with us in the zendo. Although not a tall man, his straight, imposing bearing made him look immense in my mind; his stern, samurai-like countenance scared me half to death. I quickly told myself to keep away from this guy – and prayed he'd never have to use his keisaku on me!

Yasutani Roshi would give dokusan on an upper floor, with Tai-san translating. I had seen and heard Yasutani before in New York. Nothing scary about this man. Although he did not speak a word of English and always needed a translator, his gentle voice was so pleasant that one couldn't help joining in his easy laughter, even without understanding a word he said. And he was much older. He fit my image of the wise old man – which was now rather comforting.

Retreat Journal, August 1968
revised, from a longer account published
in Ch'an Magazine, Spring 1988

These last two days have been the longest in my life. The pain in my legs is extraordinary and constant. But I know intuitively that painful legs are not what 'dokusan' with a Zen master is all about. I won't see the Roshi until I really have something to say or ask.

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