If Buddha Were My Roommate – 2 Weeks Of Mindfulness In A Western Zen Temple

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“Gongggggg-gonggggg-gongggg”. My heart starts pounding, and I’m wide awake. I hear the fleeting sound of naked feet running down the hallway in front of my room. ‘It’s the wake-up bell’, my mind calmly suggests to my heart who’s still recovering from the adrenaline shock. No need to look at the clock, I know exactly what time it is. 4:55am.

I should be used to this procedure by now, but it still gets me every morning and pulls me out of the vivid dreams that I’m having here, living as a guest student in this Zen Buddhist temple in the middle of San Francisco. I’ve always been a morning person and I don’t mind the early start. But I can barely imagine what it must be like to do this for months, years and for some of the residents the bigger part of their lives. But no time for contemplation, not yet – the zendo is calling!

I get up from my bed and start putting on my meditation clothes. Sticking with dark colors, baggy pants and long-sleeved loose shirts, I’m trying to match the...