Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Back from Retreat - written May 20, 2007

Just got back from a weeklong retreat out at the monastery. It was wonderful in many ways, but I was definitely glad to have it be over. The last night my left knee and ankle started hurting a lot, and I went to bed with them throbbing. This morning I sat on a bench rather than a cushion, and it helped some. Knees seem better now.

One somewhat trivial thing I could complain about (and have, to several people) is that they have a lovely new bamboo floor, heated. It's beautiful. But when you try to spread a bowing mat on it and bow on the floor, with long sleeves of a koromo, the mat either flies everywhere (can you say flying carpet!?) and/or bunches up as you come back up. Usually we spread the mat on carpet, and out there at the monastery their form is to spread the mats on zabutons anyway, so they have padding. With that kind of floor it certainly makes more sense. But, no, we had to stick with our own style and do nine bows on the hard slippery floor. I managed, and everyone else did too, but it was *not* easy. Maybe I should mention that "everyone else" means those with bowing mats (called zagus) -- all the ordained plus those who have been shuso (chief junior monk, a position that lasts for a year) plus lay teachers. My recollection is that there were seven of us out there, no, eight. We had three ordained attending and the monastery had two ordained, there were two lay teachers, and the current shuso. Most of the time there were about 25 people total, with some there the entire week, and some part-timers who obligingly spaced themselves over the week so that the total numbers at any time were pretty stable.

I loved the silence. I was definitely in a space where I needed to be quiet and stop *doing* so many things. I had almost no duties related to the retreat, so I was able just to sit and enjoy the silence and settle in deeply to it. That allowed me to observe and learn some more things about a recurring karmic pattern of mine, and I find that useful.

At this point, I'm ready for some time off, and in fact have already taken a nap and read a mystery novel this afternoon. I'm not entirely unpacked, but mostly, and have laundry ready to go for tomorrow. I woke up at 2am this morning, and wasn't really sleepy enough to go back to sleep until it was time to get up at 4:30. Oh, well. Tonight I can sleep, and tomorrow no alarm or wake-up bell. Maybe it doesn't need to be said that I'm not attending ZCO's program this evening -- I really want to give my knees a thorough rest before I get back down on a cushion. And anyway, I think going to bed early would be a good thing.


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