Here are some more thoughts from the notes I wrote after Reb’s retreat last month.
In the early mornings, up at 5.30, meditating by 6, we sit in silence and suddenly Reb’s voice is there. Clearly and slowly, in his soft American voice he says (as closely as I can remember it)
“The early morning breeze has secrets to tell
Silent and still.
You have to say what you really want
Silent and still.
Beings are moving back and forth at the threshold where the two worlds meet
The door is round and open
Silent and still.”
The early morning rooks and blackbirds are starting up. All 60 or so of us keep sitting, silent and still? Not really – rampaging through thoughts all too often, still being horrified by all that pride, but sometimes silent and still.
The mornings are easy. There are only a few half-hour sits with the morning service (I cross my fingers in all the religious bits), the work period outside weeding and digging under the trees, and then Reb’s long talk and question session. It’s the afternoons that are tough. From 2 p.m. until 5.30 there is relentless sitting and kinhin with no break. I make it through every day, missing only one 10 minute kinhin to get a fast cup of tea and go to the loo. Lots of people miss several of the half hours I notice. Ah there comes the pride. I am so much better than them. I don’t miss any. And yet the funniest thing is happening. Now that I am noticing and labelling the pride it seems to lose its power. Oh – there it is in a new form – and whatever it is seems to fizzle out as I stare at it.
Last year I was SO annoyed by the people who walked too fast or too slowly in the kinhin, or didn’t start walking quickly again when the end bell sounded. This time I am not annoyed at all. They still do the same thing but I laugh at myself for feeling superior and thus getting into all that ridiculous anger. It’s only slow walking! And the same is true with the people who clatter their plates when Reb has told us to eat silently.
I move a little more slowly too. I am always rushing everywhere and realise that that too is a kind of pride – I can do everything faster than you can so there! So I enjoy going more slowly (still probably rushing quite a lot) and feeling all the people around me as all those beings we can love – whether we like or dislike them – and how can I really like or dislike people when we are all in silence and all working hard without looking at each other.
“When our minds dwell in delusion we are turned by the Dharma flower: when our minds dwell in enlightenment we turn the Dharma flower” says Reb, “Fully appreciating this teaching is the Dharma flower turning the Dharma flower.” Ah – so this is the point of the retreat “Dharma Flower turning Dharma Flower”
This flower is in fact the entire universe, he says, so when we are deluded the universe turns us and vice versa. I am confused by this. It feels to me as though I am always struggling to control the universe – isn’t that a deluded me trying to turn it? Yet I know enough just to wait and see how these difficult idea clarify as we go along.