I keep waiting for that lull in time or mind to sit and write. It never is. Minutes, moments, hours days, roll and crest and time just is yet isn't. So now, I am no longer waiting, simply doing.
Morning practice starts with a Sang or smoke offering, which
Ani Tenzin did. Rigpai Dorje usually helped - but on this cold wet morning
I worked hard; retreat is not a holiday, though it is far more enriching and refreshing than a week at the beach. I was up early and went back to the tent usually late, and filled each day as best I could with prayer and meditation, circumambulations of the Temple. It was my lifeline, I knew it, to secure my feet and heart to the place from which they were never really lost, I was just looking from the wrong angle.
Each day was different, though mostly the same format. There are 5 scheduled sessions each day, roughly 7-8am, 8.45 -10, 10.15-12, 2-4, 7-9pm. Times are flexible to some degree - depending on the class you are in, what else may arise. Three delicious cooked meals a day, and the time in between for work rota, relaxing, your own practice. Washing clothes!! I shared a tent in the forest with my friend Ani Tenzin, who was in our small group in Alice Springs, and still lives in Australia. We got to know each other so much better here (sharing a tent in the rain, long days???!!!), and it was wonderful to see her after about 5 years.
The small hut where my class met for 3 practice sessions every day. One monk would point out any turkey or deer in the field when he arrived; excellent sound effects for the turkey!
After about 10 days I felt myself relax and open, rivulets of peace and joy etched across the rigid surface of my mind. One things Holiness has stressed every year is to have faith, to have no doubt. I immersed myself in that this year, knowing there was nothing else to do. And the result is palpable - if we had before and after shots of my demeanour they would be proof positive that practice works!
My work rota was Temple care, and included making the butter lamps that were available for offering in a small pagoda outside the main Temple. Mid-retreat, the mother of Bhutanese woman called Rinzin died, and Rinzin worked to ensure the lamps were filled and lit all the time. Many people helped her, and it was a delight to sit with her and make wicks, or fill the melted oil into the lamps, and experience her calm, gentle and irrevocable devotion to that which I am still learning to be. She grew up in it, with it - she said an American woman had asked her how she balanced a family, retreat, her practice. She told me she didn't have an answer - there was no question of balance; it is just how it is. I asked her about her father, she said he had left work and gone into solitary retreat in his fifties....such different parameters than those with which we are familiar.
All photos bar the first one are thanks to Thubten Rigpai Dorje; we had connected through our blogs, and finally met at retreat, where he took ordination as a monk.