Saturday, April 20, 2013

Southern Dharma Trip Report

I'm beginning to emerge. Yesterday was very lazy indeed -- today not a lot different, but I did catch up on some necessary bookkeeping work for Aranya Bodhi, downloaded photos from my camera (some which I took for Ayya Sobhana and have emailed to her). Pulled a few weeds in the garden in an attempt to keep from getting behind and then overwhelmed as spring springs.

If you wonder why all the fatigue from something most people who haven't done one think must be utterly relaxing and peaceful, here's a clue. This was the view from the front porch of the little cabin I stayed in (which was wonderful!). You can just see the roof of the meditation hall hidden by trees kind of in the middle of the photo. The walk/road goes from the parking lot, in front of that wonderful old building on the right, in an uphill slant to the main dorm/dining building that's mostly hidden behind more trees way off to the left. The point here is -- hills and stairs. From the cabin to the parking lot is uphill, although gently so. From the parking lot to the main building is uphill, and to reach the meditation hall from anywhere requires lots of stairs. Up and down the roads, the stairs, and even this grassy meadow many times every day. And that doesn't even count the intense inner work that happens at these retreats.  The stairs and hills are just physically tiring -- sitting and doing the inner work is both physically and mentally/emotionally exhausting. All wonderful -- but tiring. I was up and in the shower (right next to my cabin) around 5am every day, busy all day, back to the cabin after the last meditation period at 9:30pm.

None of this is by way of complaint. Last year, I struggled with these hills and stairs, but thanks to all my cycle machine work, I managed just fine this year. Food was good, management is superb, and the retreat itself was far, far more than I ever suspected it would be.

Another view from the other direction. My little cabin (with white door on far left) and another, plus a tent on a platform by the rushing creek. Idyllic, really.

From the top of the driveway looking down into the retreat center.

Part of the Buddha Garden -- a beautiful natural garden filled with native plants and wildflowers, tucked away alongside the upper part of the creek. I sat here on a bench for a good half hour right after Ayya told us about Boston and led us in the guided meditation. We were supposed to take a walking meditation break, but many of us scattered, seeking solace on various parts of the property.  There was so much to think about, so much to accept and allow to sink inside.

After we left the retreat on Thursday we passed this little chapel just a few miles away. Ayya wanted to stop and go inside, asked me to take some photos because she'd like to build something like this at Aranya Bodhi. I don't know who maintains this, but there's a little sign on the front that says open to everybody, anytime, day or night.

From the inside, looking back to the entry. Oddly, I really didn't get a shot of the full interior from the door, just pieces.

This is the far wall, opposite the entry. A few simple wooden pews. Little gifts left at the shrine.

So that's about all the trip report I have in me for today. I have much I want to say on Cintaspeaks, but the mind and body are still too clouded for that kind of clarity to emerge.

I came home to a surprising drop in temps -- and my gas heater was out! I don't remember turning it off before I left. There was a nearby window open and the pilot could have blown out, or it's highly possible I just took the plunge and turned off the gas knob before I left and completely forgot about it. Somehow, I couldn't manage to relight it (although I've done it each fall with no problem) so I'm sufficing with electricity and warm clothes. Wrapped up in my sleeping bag this morning and took a nap -- very warm and cozy!

Saturday, April 6, 2013


There's no more happy sign of spring to me than California poppies blooming in my back yard! First two, out today. I was being lazy, so the camera shadow shows. Sorry! But it's beautiful, anyway. These things are free to grow at will anywhere in my yard -- even the planting beds.

The blueberries are chock full of spring blossoms as well. Hope I'm around to harvest at least some of these babies when they mature.

The bees, ladybugs and other insects are having a fine time with all this rosemary, blossoming in a riot of blue. I'm glad to see honeybees out there in good number. My yard -- between the rosemary and 1/4 acre of various blossoming weeds, must be a real haven for them at the moment. There was more, but I cut a big pile of it out last week because it was infringing too much into the blueberry frame, which will need to be covered with netting soon.

In other news -- it seems to me I wrote something not long ago about spending energy to gain energy. If I didn't write about it, I certainly thought about it, and put it into practice by deliberately spending more time on my feet every day and thus less time on my seat. In the last couple of days, I've noticed that I don't even want to sit as much. If I can't find anything in particular to do standing up, I'll write on the computer that way (not at the moment, however), or just get up and walk around the room for awhile. This is a good thing. Wonder if it could have anything to do with all the magnesium I've been taking? That's supposed to be calming, no?

Another good thing -- when I had blood work done last fall my cholesterol was at a level that my doc didn't  like, and the triglycerides were at a level I didn't like, although my HDL:triglyceride ratio was still good. Being a doc, he naturally wanted me to go on statins. Being me, I said no way.  I opted to do it with diet and exercise, and taking red yeast rice. Had more blood work last week -- and everything is down to respectable levels. No statins involved, thank you very much.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Could it be?

This kind of statement always makes me nervous, because saying it out loud often backfires. But -- I'm going to take the chance anyway.

Spring is finally upon us! Yes, we have rain and a cooler spell through tomorrow, but by Saturday and into the foreseeable future, warm temps and sunshine! Even now, nighttime temps are reasonable (anything above freezing meets that category at the moment).

We are so ready! It's been a cold few months down here in the south. The beautiful pink magnolias had their blossoms killed by cold, the dogwoods still haven't blossomed (although I saw a few with fat, yellowish buds that were starting to open a couple of days ago). No azaleas  yet. Those beautiful red and yellow tulips in my back yard have been out of the ground for awhile,  but no buds yet, much less blossoms.

Spring is just late down here. Everywhere. And that makes it all the more welcome when it finally arrives. I feel better just knowing it's right around the corner.  I'm also hoping for more personal reasons, as I have a little cabin for my retreat at Southern Dharma beginning next Saturday, and a tent for the one that begins on the 25th.  Those mountains are a lot colder than we are down here. I think the cabin is heated, but the tent sure won't be. And we all know what a wimp I am when it comes to cold. Warm up -- please!

Hope spring is springing where you are.