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Then a question turns mundane and someone asks about the "dana" or gratuity we're supposed to give after the seminar.  A staff person hops in here and explains that it's all voluntary, whatever you feel like.  I joke and say ten percent of the bill and they all laugh.  I then mention how dismayed we were upon arrival, to be given a list of rules and regulations, rather than being warmly greeted and welcomed.  This place should manifest love and warmth rather than feeling like we're under house arrest.  The staffers write this down in their notebooks and thank me.

Arturo and I in loving harmony, sit at the pond later and appreciate the moment and the magic of our togetherness.

More meditation.  My behind hurts from all the sitting, the chanting, more sittings. Feels like church.  Lama Surya Das meditates with his eyes open and he could not restrain his constant yawning.

Truth learned from walking backwards uphill.  It's easier than facing front. I'm not out of breath because I can't see what lies before me.  Facing front, it's the anticipation of the climb which makes the task harder.

Monday and it feels like years that we're here.  Isolated and for the most part desolate.  This no-talking rule has us behaving like zombies.  Is this what life is intended to be?  Silent and meditative all day long?

Questions for Lama Surya Das:

1) If all is perfect, as the Buddha claims, then some of us are meant to be enlightened and others are meant to remain in their sleeping state for this incarnation, so why do we pray for the enlightenment of all beings?

2) I know that Buddhism is about the science of the mind and shows us the way through the atlas of consciousness — but how does it view the body?  Is it only the vehicle which transports the soul or are there mantras which praise our body, take inventory of the composition and thank it for performing its appointed tasks.

3) Is there a mantra which expresses joy, bliss, and happiness at being alive?  A sense of awe and wonder.  Awareness of the gift of life?  Hassidim have their ecstatic singing and dancing.  Sufis have whirling dervishes. Hindus have sacred dancing.  Is there such a concept in Dzogchen?

4) Is Buddhism an austere and ascetic practice?  Or is simplicity in all things the major tenet?

More meditation this afternoon with Lama Palmo.  The chair I sit in is unbearable.  No more for me today.  It's like an economy flight over the Pacific.  This will be my last seminar or retreat. I am no longer a seeker but a finder.

The next day Lama Surya Das uses exactly the same words .  He says there should be a time when you're no longer seeking, but have found it.  Some people go through life seeking, seeking, seeking. What is it they are seeking when it's there all along?

Note with my name on it is attached to bulletin board.  I have been granted an appointment with Lama Surya Das tomorrow at  4:30.

Tuesday AM

At breakfast the director comes over and whispers in my ear that we are to stop in the office after we are through eating. Immediately I feel like a kid being sent to the Principal.  Someone in a room near ours, he tells us apologetically, has complained about our talking.  Could we please try to maintain silence, he pleads. We promise to try. We also tell him we plan to leave on Thursday.  Enough is enough ...

We have good walk.  These hills are strengthening my legs.  Chastened over our talking, we try to maintain silence, but break up in laughter every time we think about our being summoned to the office.

Everyone takes this all so seriously.  A good lion's roar would help begin the day.

I can't wait to get away.  In such a benevolent setting, everyone is so serious.  The mood is somber, when there is every reason to be joyful.

I have my interview this afternoon.  Tomorrow the books go on sale, and then on Thursday we're out of here.  To Timber Cove, the best of all retreats.

Our bathroom is flooding from a toilet leak.  Arturo has gone to talk to the "Principal" about it.

I think of a line I once heard attributed to Jesus:  "You are more concerned with the practice of the law, than you are in the spirit of the law".  (Or words to that effect).  But I see, that in all time, the instinct is towards conforming.

What we are seeing here in the teaching, is the formalization of meditation.  With a rigid vocabulary of practice.  Meditation as business. A promise of release for the armored.  The healthy ones will find their way on their own.

Down at the pond again, lovely wondrous day and ducks and fountains and oaks and here it is to be worshipped, or at least appreciated, but where is everyone? Inside in a stuffy room, in front of an artificial altar, trying to investigate their minds.


©2006 Jean Harris for SeniorWomenWeb
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