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!

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