Dear Reader,

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I studied as a lay monk at a Zen center in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The path of a lay monk requires a higher level of commitment to practice at the center and at home: basically more sitting, more chanting. As a bonus, I got to wear a nifty light-blue robe, which still hangs in my closet next to my ōryōki set, ceremonial bowls used for taking liturgical meals in the zendo. The bowls are wrapped in a matching cloth napkin painstakingly folded to resemble a lotus flower. The irony that my ego drove me to sign up for a more arduous path escaped me at the time — an inauspicious beginning.