Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Notes After a Summer Retreat

On the evening I finished the meditation retreat the weather shifted to cool gray skies.  The rain started in the evening and continued through the night.


-On the first day out, it's raining. A lot. I love the rain and it's great to come out to a nice, fine cool downpour.

-I went down into the basement of the main house and grabbed my cell phone. After weeks of silence and wondering, I would now confirm my worst fears or highest hopes. I read my emails and texts like a starved child eats gruel.

-Turns out I didn't miss anything. 

-I talked to Retreat Master about "A Course in Miracles," nonviolent communication, and Charlotte Joko Beck's "Everyday Zen."

-Retreat Master went into town to visit the chiropractor. Her daughter drove and I went along for the ride. I to get out of the house. Surrounding land was covered in lush green grass, weeds, and wild flowers. The farm fields were high with a waving sea of summer corn. There were also a lot of grazing buffalo.

-After doctor office, we stopped at Butterfly World. The butterfly house wasn't open. The rain had driven all the butterflies to the stop of the ceiling net. Instead we walked around the garden and looked at the different plants and stone fountains

-The rain stopped the following day. I grabbed a canoe, paddle, life preserver and went out on the lake.  After a few minutes, I got back my stroke back and cut across the pristine water. I spotted a giant aluminum boat that had been abandoned on land with its front pointing into the sky. The people at Tree of Life main house told me that they've found canoes that are hundreds of years old that some times float up. The natives would sink them as a way to preserve their quality. They said after cold winter when the lake was frozen over, two canoes bob'ed to the surface after the initial thaw. Both boats were given to museums because they were over 400 years old when analyzed.  

- I gave the Retreat Master a book of Buddhist poetry as a gift of thanks. She handed the book over to little girl who lives in the house. Apparently, she communes with spirits and can 'see' into books. I'm skeptical but open-minded to the idea.  

-The little girl went into a trance or what I would assume was some sort of altered state (I'm no expert). She began gesturing, rolling her head around, closing and opening her eyes while holding the book. Her head started nodding. No sound came out of her mouth. In trance, she drew a picture of a ovoid circle with light rays beaming off of it. She handed picture to me. The circle looked like it could be an eye, or the heart chakra, or the universe, all three, or absolutely nothing. 

-Still in a trance, the little girl ran off and came back with a porcupine needle. She spoke for the first time saying 'be very careful. It's a porcupine needle.' I roll the needle around in my hand and then hand it back to her. 

-Still in a trance, the little girl ran off and came back with a sea shell. She handed it to me. I try not to over-think this 'symbol' but to just accept it as something lovely. In reality, the sea shell is actually very significant to me. 

-Still in a trance, the little girl ran off and came back with a pink crystal in the shape of a ring. She grabbed the book of poetry and opens it to an exact page. She put the shell and ring on two separate pages. I look down and see that the page is open to the only poem in the entire book that I've used in my work. Not only that but she has put the shell and pink crystal exactly on the two verses that I've quoted in my writing. I looked up from the verses and she's nodding her and pointing at me. I nod back at her. 

-When the little girl returns to her 'usual' state, there isn't much to say. I don't wish to intrude upon what just happened. I thank her. She wandered off to go play with something. 

-I cleaned the zen rock labyrinth. This took days of work. Some of the weeds are waist high, many are growing on top of a layer of dead weeds. I had no idea how or where to start. So I put a small rug down on the northeast corner, got down on my knees, found the smallest daisy weed there was, and I plucked it. I flicked the uprooted plant into a white gardening cart. 

-I surrendered to this garden process. What was just plucking a few weeds, turned into an obsession. Sweat is pouring down my shirt and sweat pants. I'm moving around the, dipping down, spinning around. I realize it must look like I'm dancing or a whirling dervish with both covered in dirt and filled with daisies. Weeds are flying out of the ground and into the cart. I have no idea what's going on. Hours pass. I lose myself in the process. I understand why people can fall in love with gardening and pulling weeds. 

-Someone stopped by the garden and gasped, 'WHOA!' I stepped back and looked. Nearly half the garden has been plucked clean of weeds. I didn't intend on doing that. I don't know what I intended by besides plucking a few weeds. I have experienced similar situations when working out, or playing my violin or writing. There is a submersion and the 'I' evaporates. It's just the action happening. 

-The weeds fly into the cart. I take several carts overstuffed with weeds and dump them by the lake in the recycling/compost area for gardening. A small mountain of green weeds accumulated. 

- The garden was 2/3 done. There was the southeast corner, which was untouched. It scared me for some reason. The weeds were different in that corner with purple flowers low to the ground and vines. I attack the over corners and areas of the rock garden. 

-The Little Girl stopped by the rock labyrinth eating a bag of chips. For some reasons I'm hearing the words 'about time you did something.' She sat on top of one of the main stone markers and watched. After a few moments she said, 'about time you did some work around here.'

-Little Girl pointed out the Southeast corner (the area I've avoided). "That's going to be really difficult." I nod, dreading that area as I continue working around it. She pointed up at the sky, "LOOK." I looked up and it's a morning dove serenely watching from a power line.

-I recalled at the beginning of this retreat, the black snake that slithered across my path and disappeared. Now a morning dove. 

-The cats from the house started to come out and lay in the rock garden now. The nuzzled their chins against the grey stones and nap for a few minutes in the space as it cleared up. 

-The next day, I'm discouraged and aching from hours of weeding. The southeast corner is hopeless. I'm feeling depressed. It occurred to me that I can just get on the ground and pick one purple flower. I slowly laid on the ground and pulled up a purple flower. It came up easily. I picked another and another. The vines have spider webs intertwined in them. I ripped them up from the earth and tossed them in the white cart. 

-The zen rock labyrinth is finally cleared. It has been done!!! There's still weeds and some vines, but it's possible to walk the entire path now. The entrance was at the southeast corner, where all the purple flowers I dreaded were. I walked through the entrance and took the path curving around in beautiful loops from the East, to the North, to the South, and finally West. The labyrinth's path grows more pristine as it moves to the center. I walked to the heart of the labyrinth. At the heart of everything was a large red stone with 4 crystal donated from the Dalai Lama. 

-I can now see the labyrinth in all its beauty and simplicity. Traveling from the four points to the center of the universe. For a moment a path has been opened.

-Lightning storms put on a fireworks display at night.

-Last night at Tree of Life, we all had dinner at the table. Quinoa burgers and salad. Someone decided that champagne was appropriate. Then for dessert they cut up strawberries, diced chunks of waffles, and melted raw cacao and chocolate. We drank champagne while eating strawberries and waffles with dipping chocolate.

- On the way back to New York we got lost. I woke up and our car was rising over the Hudson River Valley. We were in New York state. Usually you enter New York City through New Jersey. Unwilling to go back, we trudged forward. I said there must be a reason for us to take another route. We ended up driving down the Palisades Parkway. It's beautiful. Maybe that was our reason.

-Stench of sewage plant hits our noses as we crossed into the city. But we're home so it was fine. 


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