Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Trip report -- finally

I'm still having a  hard time getting into writing about the two weeks at Bhavana -- not because it was a bad experience, because that's certainly not the case. Somehow, it seems so long ago -- and certainly 'other worlds' apart. I was there, and I remember it clearly, but it just isn't at the top of my mind the way you'd think it would be.

I guess it's a kind of jet lag. It certainly was a culture shock, coming from two weeks in that quiet, forest environment onto freeways and into the craziness of life here in the real world. It took me days to rest up from the drive home, then I sort of partied Monday night watching the Rose Bowl (Yay, Ducks!) and had to return to work yesterday to a real mess. That part wasn't surprising -- these two men are hopeless when it comes to banking and money and such. I finally got the bank account straightened out this morning and now I'm all caught up and can start to relax again.

So back to Bhavana -- the first word that comes to mind is cold. Not as cold as it is here today (17 at my home this morning) but chilly, inside and out. We all wore whatever we had with us that would keep us warm, in the dorms, the lunch/tea area, and the meditation hall. There was heat, but it was kept low to keep expenses down and it never felt warm unless you were standing in front of the wood stove when the fire was going strong, and even then you had to be really close to it. Brrrrr! Other than that.....

I was surprised but not unhappy to find that we were a very small group, for both weeks. We had 8 women and 2 men for each week, although only four of us women attended both weeks.  Our schedule called for 9 hours of meditation per day, beginning at 5:30 am and ending at 9pm.  I quickly found that schedule wouldn't work for me (no surprise there -- I can't stay up that late!).  I'd get up at 4:30am, take a quick shower, then go make coffee for everyone, have a quick cup for myself, then head into the meditation hall around 5am. For the first week, it was only me and Bhante G in there at that hour, and my cushion was probably no more than 10 feet from him so I enjoyed that half hour before others began to straggle in. Bhante Seelananda returned from a trip and then there were just the 3 of us in there in the mornings until the second week, when there were one or two other early folks with us.  Then, in the evening I began going into the hall at 6pm instead of 7pm, and again would find one or both of the monks in there and it would be just us. Then I'd leave early and go to bed.  The early morning meditation was almost two hours, and then we'd sit again for two hours after breakfast. I never managed to sit the entire 3-hour period in the afternoons, but still, I did more than a lot of the attendees and I did all I could.

What was interesting to me was how much the retreat changed for me when the first group of people left and the new group arrived. I had issues with my new roommate not being thoughtful about turning the light on when I was trying to sleep, and requested a move to a kuti. Somehow, all the changes brought up all kinds of ugly stuff for me to look at, meditate on, and let go. I left in the middle of the third one, foolishly. I know I can't run away from this stuff, and I could have dealt with it if I'd stayed -- but at the time I just felt I had to get out of there. Nobody's fault -- just part of long meditation retreats. It's actually why we go to these things, so this stuff can come up and be addressed, but it's never fun while it's happening.

I was able to walk the path through the forest almost every day. It takes about a half hour, and is very peaceful. Unfortunately, the sun only shown intermittently, so the moss doesn't stand out as much as it could. But it was a grand portion of my day. Once, I was having such a struggle with stuff coming up that I left the meditation hall all wigged out and walked this path, working on all the stuff as I walked. Sometimes, I can't work on the stuff sitting -- I do better out in nature, even if it's below freezing outside, as it was that day.

I loved watching the sunset each afternoon from my kuti.

This is Karuna Kuti, which was my home for several days before I bolted. It's heated with propane, but I tried to keep costs down for them, and didn't turn the heat up far enough to be really warm. Just kept the chill off.

Inside -- a very nice little home.

In my walks and exploration I found this Buddha statue sitting on a log near the upper women's dorm, and thought it was really cool.

This is Parami Kuti, where I stayed last summer.  It looks really different in the winter -- all that lush greenery of summer is long gone.

This has absolutely nothing to do with Bhavana -- I was drawn by curiosity to see what the sign was all about at a rest stop in Virginia on the way north.  Enlarge the photo to hopefully read it, but this is the Arch Truss Bridge, the oldest in Virginia, dating from the 1700's. Kind of cool.

So, that's it, folks. Full report.

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