Formal training at a Zen Monastery can be physically and emotionally challenging. There is no guarantee that everyone will adjust quickly to monastic life. To mitigate the difficulties of adjustment, we advise everyone to consider these factors when they are applying, and to begin to prepare for their semester well in advance.
First, find a local Buddhist or meditation community. Become acquainted with the practice. Is it something that appeals to you? Spend some time really investigating this question. Perhaps arrange to visit a monastery or temple near you and stay for the weekend. See how a few days of meditation and silence feel. This program will be A LOT more of that.
If you are committed to signing up, or have already been accepted, here’s some advice I received from Jogen Salzberg, a dharma-teacher at Great Vow Zen Monastery:
“Before you come, reflect on your aspiration for heart/mind training and self-investigation. Bring this intention to the forefront of your mind throughout the day. Set some time aside everyday for meditation, 30 minutes a day is recommended. Familiarize yourself with Zen Buddhist teachings and practice. Two books I heartily recommend: Appreciate Your Life by Taizan Maezumi Roshi and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, Roshi.”