Thursday, August 30, 2007

with blessing comes responsibility

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche gives Empowerment

Meeting with Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, a revered Tulku
who will be our next lineage holder.
When I walked in the room, his kindness and gentleness
pervaded every cell of my body.
My heart cracked open just to be in his holy presence.
photo: George Lam

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.

Retreat was rich, textured. I arrived with a mind and heart weighted with an accumulation of tension, misery - burnt out and in despair. The week before I left, my only thought was to get there. I knew retreat with the blessings of HH Penor Rinpoche is the opportunity to feast on the potential of everything. It is the display of compassion alive in every moment, vivid. Teachings occurred every day - immeasurable blessings of wisdom - by Holiness and other Lamas, whose only thought is to help us awaken loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity from the depths of our heart.

Morning practice starts with a Sang or smoke offering, which
Ani Tenzin did. Rigpai Dorje usually helped - but on this cold wet morning
I was moral support!

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!
At the end of each session every day we walked in a line back to and circumambulated the Temple, chanting Om Mani Pedme Hung.
A wonderful, joyful completion.

It is lovely to be with people joyfully committed to a path of compassion. There is laughter and friendship and help. You can be with others as much or as little as you want, and whatever you choose is respected.

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.

Rinzin and the butter lamps

At the end of retreat I spent a day at our Temple in MD, and while I was there Jetsunma gave a teaching. I cannot explain the joy at seeing her face, feeling the warmth of her love. This was the perfect ending of the month, a teaching rich with wisdom and compassion, from the heart of my teacher. The title of this blog is part of what she offered us. I have the blessings, more than I can count; my prayer is to live them fully, deeply and with responsibility. For the end of suffering, for the opening of hearts, in a way that is not fixed or rigid, but soft, supple, graceful with joy.

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.


Anonymous said...

So happy to have you back online, Ani-la -- I treasure the insights you share so garcefully in your blog and appreciate your sharing some of the blessings of the retreat with us.

EdaMommy said...

Very glad to "see" you. Thank you for yet another wonderful, thought-provoking and honest post. ^_^

Tia said...

It sounds like you had a deeply nourishing (in all senses) experience at this retreat. The photos are beautiful.

We have recently decided to relocate to Kalispell, Montana and one of the first places we happened upon was the Kancha Buddhist Center downtown. We hope to be able to attend some of the classes.

Good to have you back. I'm sorry we didn't end up having time to get to Sedona. We had wished to see it.

Stephen Newton said...

Thank you for your words, Kunzang. I enjoyed reading about the retreat and am glad you have returned to Dakini Valley refreshed.