Posts Tagged ‘Rohatsu’


December 2nd, 2011    -    2 Comments

Digging out from a hundred-year windstorm, neighbors without roofs and windows, trees shredded, landscapes buried, no heat, no light, no relief in sight, gives new meaning to the word, “leave.”

I’m leaving for Rohatsu retreat, sitting in silent witness to impermanence and the inconceivable power of mind.

Watch this place while I’m away for guests and gifts and remember this: When you’ve done all you can do, undo.

meditation on the wind

November 25th, 2011    -    8 Comments

This morning I am sitting beside the Atlantic ocean, and it is windy.

The first time I came close to waking up out of my highly cultivated neuroses, I was at a weeklong meditation retreat in the high desert of California’s San Jacinto Mountains. It was December, and it was cold and dark. The facilities were rustically beautiful, which is to say, off the electrical grid and without flushing toilets. In that kind of an environment, a lot of things fall away: first, all the things you think you can’t live without, and then, all the things you think.

By midweek, my hair was matted and greasy, my back was achy, my legs were creaky, my clothes were stinky, and I could hardly lift a care about any of it. Once I’d worn out my complaints and objections, unspooled my stock of poor-me storylines, I was left with nothing to do but sit and listen.

What we’re usually listening for — and especially when we’re doing things the hard way — is for the damn thing to be over. Aren’t we itching for just about everything to be over? Whenever we’re uncomfortable, which is most of the time no matter what the circumstance, we’re anticipating the end. Fast-forwarding, channel-changing, boredom-breaking, leave-taking outta here!

What I’ve noticed about most of the things that are really good for us is that there’s no easy way out. Not without making a total fool of yourself. So you might as well relax, because you’re here.

When I relaxed on my meditation cushion I heard something outside the window. I heard it morning, noon, and night, unbroken and eternal, like Seinfeld reruns. The next time I saw my teacher face-to-face, I told him about it.

The wind! I said, as if I’d never heard it before. It’s the same wind my grandfather heard!

What is that wind? he asked.

Yikes, what is the wind? I detoured up into my head, which had equipped me for so long with the quick cleverness of intellect and retort. This time it was empty and out of service. Crickets chirped.

Everything, I finally answered, grasping for something. Some explanation, some answer to describe the very is-ness that transcends description. He patted my knee.

Now and then I wonder whether that was the right or wrong answer. Whether it was good or bad, enlightened or deluded, enough or not enough. Whether his pat was a correction or congratulation, a pass or a fail. Maybe you’re wondering too. As my practice matured, I wished I had said something different. When my practice matures further, I will stop wishing. I will stop rewriting the old or re-imagining the new, because when we do that, detouring into the wilderness in our heads, we have lost the wind, we have lost the crickets, we have lost the song, and we have lost our lives, again.

Missing person

November 25th, 2009    -    5 Comments

I caught a story in yesterday’s paper that you shouldn’t miss. It’s not uncommon for one little story in the newspaper to sum up the wretched whole of human tragedy but this story was in a category by itself. A 13-year-old autistic boy, running from rebuke at school and evading punishment at home, stowed away in plain sight on a subway where he rode nonstop for 11 days without being noticed.

It wasn’t hard to be invisible, he told police. “Nobody really cares about the world and about people.” He is a rare jewel among human beings: he can see things as they are. Read more about his journey here.

I feel as if I have been missing for some time. Not so good about reading your blogs or writing my own. Not as open-eyed or even-keeled as I might have been. I’ve been immersed in the late stages of the publication process: the manuscript submission, the diagnostic revisions, and now the slice-and-dice of copy edits. No one who is striving for that mythical, magical realm called “Being Published” will ever believe what it is really like: how much it extracts from you, and yet how little it changes things. It’s like abdominal surgery. Over the course of the procedure, all 28 feet of your intestines are shoved aside, and in some cases, taken out and piled up on the table beside your body. Then your bowels are put back and you’re sewn into the semblance of something new. For a short while you feel the effects, but before long everything is just as it was before. You’re not younger, better looking, or rich. You might even been poor. You don’t believe me, but you can read more about it here.

Today I said goodbye to my husband and daughter as they travel east to celebrate the holiday with my in-laws. Aside from the year my father died, this is the first Thanksgiving we haven’t been together. I will attend Rohatsu sesshin, a Zen meditation retreat that commemorates the Buddha’s enlightenment. It is time for me to excuse myself from the family table and do what the Buddha did, to be like the boy I told you about at the top of this post: a rare jewel who can see things as they are. You can read more about the story of Buddha here.

Next week several guest bloggers will appear in my stead. I thank them for spilling their guts, and I hope you’ll stick around and read more about them here.

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