Sunday, 1 November 2009
Sunday, 23 August 2009
We left Rhode Island on 23rd July and went back to New york for a night. Karunadevi and Acharasiddhi came through for us, yet again, and invited us to stay with them the night in a lovely rented town house they were in for a week. We arrived hungry and tired and then left refreshed the next morning for Garrison, still in New York state and did a 10 day retreat there with Lama Surya Das. There must have been 50 or so people on the retreat and it was very good. The whole thing was in silence and we appreciated the emphasis on 'just being' and 'letting go' (particularly of meditation being any particular experience) as well as the heartfelt chanting. Really getting a sense of how all suffering is caused by self clinging and this is a big practise in our daily life, not letting the self clinging motivations be the ones to act from.
The next stop was Portsmouth, and we stayed at Akashaloka, next to Aryaloka retreat centre, for 10 days. We had the whole building to ourselves, only having to leave once or twice to let mitra groups meet in the lounge. The shrine room was lovely, it had a big window so was nice and bright with wooden floors. We did lots of Chod and other practises each day. We had wanted to make it a time to mostly retreat and assimilate all the input we had had, but it turned out that we were quite busy. Some of the local Order members invited us out for walks and dinners which was delightful and then we led a day event on the sacred feminine and an evening full moon puja. There was an Order day as well. So our time was great and we made lovely connections with the Sangha who were very generous to us.
We left on the 11th august from there getting a lift with Viryalila to Boston where we stayed with Sunada and led an evening with the Boston Sangha on the system of meditation. Just 2 nights there and on to Portland, Maine on the greyhound bus. Dharmasuri picked us up. We stayed with her for 4 nights and led a day retreat there at Nagaloka buddhist centre. She was a lovely host and spent the entire time with us.
From there we had 3 days on a train, sleeping in our chairs. The scenery was beautiful but very exhausting to travel like this, however better than flying. Arrived in Montana on 19th august and staying with Varada. The views are amazing here, surrounded by the Rocky mountains. This week we are care-taking the house while she is away and looking after the animals: horses, goats, dog, chickens, ducks and fish; also the vegetables and flower garden. We intend to spend the week having a much needed time for reflection and assimilation, the psyche hasn't caught up yet, so much is going on internally and externally.
Internally the themes are around koans or contradictions, connection and working with the habitual 'views' that our circumstances are drawing out into the open.
The first koan is around will/volition. So the big practise in this way of life is letting go of ones will. This is important because we are staying in other peoples homes and it would be ungracious, even inappropriate, to be demanding and try to assert our own preferences. This last month this has really been the practise at the forefront. Time and again ideas about needing to have a certain kind of time or space have been unmet. The feeling arises of not wanting to accept , but quicky we realise that to hang on to this would be unpleasant for all involved. So when the inspiration is there, this is a fantastic opportunity and the task is to act from openness and connectedness and not from self clinging. "The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself." - Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche... So when we keep letting go the rewards are a deep sense of "going with the flow" and really meaningful connections. But sometimes the vision and inspiration isn't there... at these times this action of letting go is not so wholehearted and results in passivity, alienation and disconnection. So we are both realising the need to keep inspired and remember why we have chosen to live this way.
A couple of times when at a low ebb we have looked for comfort in some of the usual places, sometimes called "false refuges"; eg. last night we put TV on for a while but it was so unsatisfying, in fact just made us both feel even more low... So, we are feeling the rub where keeping the spiritual perspective, that is, really "going for refuge" to what is real, is a necessity otherwise it's too challenging to live this way. There is a hexagram in the IChing, sometimes called The Wanderer, that talks about success in small things and about how the wanderer has to be on her best behaviour and can't get away with much, to give in to difficulties would be more trouble than it's worth. The thing is that the vision of the spiritual life keeps changing as we change so the type of inspiration needed differs too. This week we intend to refuel on inspiration.
Another koan seems to be around connection. Our experience is that meeting new people from an open hearted place is very meaningful and it seems that this generally meets the deep need for connection too. Yet at other times, again, maybe when the particular kind of spiritual inspiration required is low, there wells up a big need to be really known by people - people that have known us well over time. At these times the feeling of missing this kind of connection is strong. This has been happening more in the last month or so.
Lastly for this blog, the theme of views. Some underlying views have been drawn out in to consciousness lately around not being wanted and being in the way. Often they come up when arriving in a new place and quickly go away when we realise that they are unfounded. We have however also been experiencing that giving in to these views is, at the very least, unpleasant and uncomfortable and at worst just creates a web that needs some work to get out of.
So, for the path of transformation: Sudakini is really learning to let go into the moment more - a deepening of confidence in the basic ok-ness of things. She is changing from a person who doesn't like dogs to someone who is bonding with all these different pets people have... amazing!
Vajralila however is in the process of wearing away a view of herself that was pride based, around being capable - so, a good driver, good with animals, a good cook, fearless! The reality right now is that when driving a truck for the first time here she was not confident, drove too fast and nearly pulled onto the wrong side of the road, making the owner uncomfortable with letting her have use of it. The dog she was going to look after kept growling and so was put in kennels as the risk of it biting was too high, and the cheese sauce she prides herself on was sweet instead of savoury and tasted rank! So the learning curve here is letting the feeling of humiliation (which involves attachment to a particular view of self) turn into a positive sense of humility.
Lastly, a comment on a view that there is a time and place one can get to that then one will be able to relax. This is untrue. Life... time keeps rolling on, there is no place where it's all going to stop. Going with it is the only way, relax as it all keeps moving.....or something!?
"Happiness cannot be found through great effort and willpower, but is already present, in open relaxation and letting go..." Lama Gendun Rinpoche.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
We got to Grand junction and struggled in crazy heat to carry more luggage than we could really cope with, (we had had to get a tent, sleeping bags etc just for the retreat at taramandala) and got lost so walked double the distance we needed to. But we got our greyhound bus to Durango and this was our first experience of 'couch surfing', it's a website you just ask a stranger if you can stay. so this lovely young woman had us stay on her couch the night. She wasnt in when we first arrived which was worrying, but she turned up and showed us the lovely town. She left us there with her house mate the night and she went to sleep at her boyfriends and the next day she came back, cooked us breakfast and then went to work, leaving us to see ourselves out. How is that for validating faith in human nature! A similar experience happened after the retreat when we had our second couch surf experience. This time we had a proper bed and the lady took us out for dinner and said she'd like us to come back and do a day retreat that she would organise. Its good practise all this in that we travel and feel at the end of our tether and then stay with people and we can't just withdraw and go to a room somewhere, we have to go beyond our self and be friendly and sociable. And actually when theres no option, its ok. Now is always ok, it's just the projected future that isn't.
The retreat in the middle of this was amazing. The place itself, Taramandala is magic. Lama Tsultrim has had this incredible vision to build a temple and has! Its a massive Tibetan temple in the middle of mountains in a valley. Lama Tsultrim generously taught 5 or so hours a day. We learn a lot more about Chod and improved our drumming. The whole time was blessed and it really does feel like a positive force is guiding us. At the end of the retreat this woman came up and handed us an envelope with $100 in it saying she could recognise our going forth and wanted to support it, that was meaningful to be witnessed in that way. Lama Tsultrim encouraged us to return in august for a special retreat but it looks financially impossible we think.
One day Vajralila saw a bear not far from where we were camping and that night a heard of horses trotted around our tent and we thought it was bears and freaked ourselves out. When they went we took our sleeping bags and slept in the Temple!
So next was a 3 day, 2 night train to New york, which although the scenery was fab, the sleeping in the chairs and the airconditioning for this long was exhausting. Sita had us stay with her in New York, she was lovely and her and Sudakini got to do contact dance together. We did a day on the System of meditation for the New York sangha which went well and was a privilege.
Hey ho! of we go now from a few days in Rhode Island to a Lama surya Das retreat in Garrison.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
At times we have felt ourselves to be hungry ghosts surrounded by gods... For sure not the truth of how things are, but in such a beautiful city, where tasty food opportunities on every corner and an invite to eat out at every turn meet our limited budget, it has been somewhat painful.
When we made our decision to leave Norwich and "go forth" it had an air of romance and glamor. The vision was BIG. And now at times we feel so small. It is so much more gritty and so much less glamorous on the path of transformation. Old habits (samskaras) are writ large under these conditions. Without the familiar such as jobs, routines, roles, positions, home, an ongoing sense of community and physical contact with friends, the deep needs for security and belongingness are challenged, and feelings of meaninglessness and lack of confidence are looming.
We are lucky that Sangha works. We have made meaningful connections with so many people in such a short space of time. A mini temporary chapter weekly with Viriyalila, the opportunity to join the SF order chapter for a couple of weeks, treated to 3 days in a hotel by the ocean with Karunadakini and Joanneke, then on retreat with 30 others from the SFBC at lovely Jikoji in the Santa Cruz hills, and almost daily contact with one or another of the community members in the annex (Elaine and Shantinayaka the caretakers) or from the women's community above (Lisa, Padmatara and Viriyalila while Suvannaprabha is away). Add to the mix the wonderful participants on the day events we offered at the center here and other individuals in the Sangha who have moved towards us and held out the hand of friendship and generosity... Our practice is definitely becoming more seamless. So many negative views being stirred up and challenged each day, how could this not be the path of transformation?
We are blessed this last week in the Bay area with staying in the house of Karunadevi and Acarasiddhi while they are away. We are playing and delighting in having a home to ourselves for a week. Moments of settling in are punctuated with the poignant reminder that we are moving on soon and can't get too comfy. Learning to kiss the joy as it flies.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Well my mum came out of intensive care and I had run out of couches to sleep on in Colchester and Ipswich, although Amalaketu and Debbie were very welcoming and said I could have stayed longer. I was in a strange state during that time, when you think someone close might die the whole world becomes more precious and beautiful somehow.
I eventually arrived for my month at Taraloka at the beginning of May. It was a very special time. A few days in I was on 2, week long retretreats back to back, Cooking on both for 35 people which I loved. The first retreat was on the Lakshanas and the doorways to liberation led by Vajradarshini. Her presentation of the material helped it sink in more than ever and after a great talk with her one day i realised there is no security anywhere, not even in the transcendental and that the fact that all phenomena change constantly, that this existence (samsara) is unfixable like a wonky wheel on a cart, with all its interconnected co-arising patterns (including me) that can't be seen as independently existing.... means that I can only find true freedom in the moment, that I am better of not wishing things be a certain way (accepting how things are) and letting go into the openness behind the fear of not existing in the way i think I do, then the world become more beautiful and awesome even in its imperfection, losses and brokenness (in fact because of them!).
And so this was exciting and also uncomfortable as i began seeing the eternalistic edge that had crept into my relationship to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Perfectly, the next retreat was a Sadhana retreat in which my devotional practise changed into a kind of reverence for the heartness I was 'in' here and now in 'real life', sort of a tangible yet unsentimental love. My Sadhana practise also changed with some permission giving from Parami and Padmasara, to just the seed syllable of 1000 armed Avalokitesvara (HRIH) instead of a very complex form I had been doing it and feels very right. I also offered massage on some of this time and people gave what they wanted so this helped fund our project a bit.
I had been inspired to have an attitude of service and so best i could tryed to come from this place as i continued my time at Taraloka. Found my self doing great jobs like mowing the grass on a sit on mower and sawing wood. It was great meditating with them all in the community shrine room each morning at 7.30am and chanting the refuges and precepts. I connected well with the women who live there and hope to deepen some of these connections as time goes on. Also enjoyed meeting Julie again and was impressed by her love of the Dharma, hope to be part of her journey as it develops.
Was sad to leave but it was then all about family, who are all poorly at present. First went to my Dads in penzance, met Sudakini on route, we hadn't seen each other for a month. My Dad has Lewybodies dimentia and had deteriorated since I last saw him, hallucinating wildly and aggressive at times. He is unlikely to live more than a few years I discovered. Sudakini and I took him out every day and we had a lovely time, we also cooked each evening to give his wife a break. So after 6 days we went to my Mums who is slowly recovering from phenomena and is in a wheel chair and unable to do much yet, my step dad is caring for her. It was lovely that our best buddies Ruth, Joan and Jenny came to clacton for the day to see us. I also met my half Sister (same Dad) and enjoyed spending rare time with her. She is only 31 and had had part of her bladder removed as well as part of her bowel and appendix to reconstuct a damaged bladder. She is cathetirised constantly and her one of her kidneys no longer works due to all this, she has a great sense of humour and is very brave as is her 10 year old son. Then 3 days later we are in Eastbourne with Sudakinis Mum and Rob where it is always relaxing. It has felt important to have'good endings' latley because thigs keep ending quicker than in 'normal life' and almost like how it would be to die well, like I don't want anything unresolved and want to have the most positive effect I can have. We are now firming up our USA plans and fly to Sanfransico the day after tomorrow!
Saturday, 4 April 2009
Friends and family are being ongoingly generous to us in so many ways... Rather than being homeless it feels more like there is a home for us in so many places. Undeniably there are wobbly moments when a stable base is missed; but the moments pass and overall the taste of freedom and the opportunities this way of life offers are much appreciated. To be able to share in the life of someone else by staying in their house, even if only for a couple of days, is a real privilege.
The next time we see each other will be when we have our 6 month visa interview at the US embassy on april 15th. Our plans for america are progressing - we have decided to travel by train whilst there to see the landscape. Starting in San Francisco, then to Colorado... Next to New York, via Texas (maybe)! Vajralila's personal myth of the cowgirl archetype is calling. Apparently Texas is the size of UK plus several european countries all rolled in to one, so we need to do a bit of research about where exactly we might find some cowgirls... Sounds like Fort Worth might be the place?? Once in New York we hope to spend a bit of time with Sangha on the east coast then all the way back to the Northwest to Seattle and Montana.
So, in England till mid to end of May...
Saturday, 21 March 2009
Sunday, 1 March 2009
The convention was a remarkable event, especially the early mornings and evenings when nearly five hundred of us in various shades of blue and kesas, gathered for meditation and puja under the Bodhi tree. The Mahabodhi temple is familiar with large numbers of Tibetan, Srilankan and Thai pilgrims but this was the first time WBO and TBM were really visible here. I get a sense our presence had a positive impact. Many Buddhists from other traditions sat with us, even chanted with us, some bowed to show respect and some just gazed or took photos. The faces appeared open and friendly.
Now we are back to a more spacious, and quiet routine of our own making, wanting to make the most of our last days here near the Bodhi tree and Vajrasana. On 13th March we fly back to England. Vajralila will spend 6 weeks at Taraloka and Sudakini some time there and elsewhere. Our plans for our trip to America are slowly progressing.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Well, Sudakini is now better! She had tablets to treat Giardia and amoebic dysentery! Apparently the doctor has a habit of overperscribing, a guy in our guest house said if you go with a head ache you will be given a morphine injection!
We are in the swing of cooking for ourselves more. Usually papaya, banana and lemon for breakfast. Tibetan bread and marmalade another favorite. We had pasta today. Really enjoy getting fresh veg in the morning, you have too get it each day as it goes off so quick in the heat. Common veg is green peppers, tomatoes, pees, aubergine, carrots, chilies, beans, spinach. We got a weird spiky thing the other day. The man said to peel it and fry it. It was like a mixture between potatoes, aubergine and parsnip, very nice. Veg is incredibly cheap, like 1p for 6 tomatoes. Chai is gorgeous and Sudakini has mastered the art of making this. Cheese is a luxury here and even then its expensive and processed. Vajralila misses pizza a bit.
A woman staying in our guest house is a chod teacher and gave us a lesson yesterday. We feel like beginners again. We had picked up many bad habits and are having to re learn the technique. Humility is a good thing of course.
Vajralila is immersed in her 'what is emptiness' project and is reading 'pointing out the Dharmakaya' and 'The understanding heart' by Tich nat hahn. Both are excellent. Sudakini already seems to have know for a long time what Vajralila is learning.
Our new chapter has formed and stormed and any time soon we expect it to perform. The FWBO land is in the process of being transformed for the convention in a few weeks. Things are changing fast. Gardens emerging and a massive wooden frame that will be a structure under canvas is looking impressive. Buddhas are being made out of stone and a bamboo bridge appeared this week. At present 24 Indian women are staying there, with their cooks, All 30 in one room. These women got ordained as Bikkunis a few days ago (they needed somewhere safe to stay) which is pretty radical as women are not recognised as able to have full ordination in the Theravada tradition but they persuaded somone to conduct the ordination and managed to find Bikkhus to be there to witness it to make it authentic, although the Bikkhus wouldn't put there name to it (apparently they could loose their passports if they did!) it seems to have been enough to count. We and Aranyaka were there to be supportive and the next day Sudakini and I bought 24 potions of this special indian sweet treat for them to celebrate, we offered it to each woman and then they had us kneel with our eyes closed while they chanted blessings for us. It was very special.
Thank you to those who read and comment, it helps us feel connected xxxxx
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Sunday, 25 January 2009
2 days ago we did Chod at the site and at the end an angry woman said, 'If you knew anything about chod you wouldn't be doing it at this time'. She was very abusive, right in front of the tree, we certainly did call up the demons, anyway this knocked our confidence and checked out with Lama Tsultrim Allione that it was ok to do Chod anytime and she said it was and also you can do special chod and dusk and dawn when the veil in between the worlds is at the thinnest.
We have been causing ourselves grief by being dissatisfied with the room we have which is dark, smelly, has mossies and is next to a bathroom in which people have this habit her of reaching to the depths of their being and making a heel of a racket bringing phlegm up and spitting it, this is the sound we Wake up to and go to sleep to. We wont add information about the slum and its dogs and children and outside noises at risk of sounding negative. Or the babbling brook of rubbish and sewage and goodness knows how many diseases. No, instead we have seen that by complaining and focusing on looking for a better places has made things worst, Yesterday we reached acceptance. We realised we had gone through the stages of 1. Denial, its not happening and will change any minute, 2. Bargaining, plotting ways to fix it, all with new faults though, 3. Anger, It shouldn't be this way and its not fair, 4. Depression/Despair, Resignation, it will just be bad and lastly 5. Acceptance, give in to what is, stop wasting energy in trying to fix it. This released energy and actually theres a lovely view on the roof top terrace, it feels safe, its near everything and we have some anonymity. We are promised a room upstairs in 5 or 6 days with a window!
Friday, 16 January 2009
we arrived in Bodhgaya yesterday. The tain left on time and arrived early! We booked into the root intitute which is lovely. Simple. There is a massive prayer wheel in the couryard. It is very tibetan with bright colours and prayer flags and big rupas as well as trees and flowers. We are on retreat tomorrow with Dagri Rimpoche and a nun who has just come out of a 6 year solitary. Should be intersting. Feel in need of meditation and reflection.
We met Nissoka and Aranyaka at our FWBO land here and they were great company to spend the evening with. We circumambulated the Mahabodi temple. It is a strong place to be and being here for 6 weeks we plan to make it a daily practice to go there.
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Saturday, 10 January 2009
We are attending a week of teachings by the Dali Lama this week which is very inspiring. He talks for 5 hrs a day. 2 things have gone in at a deeper level than previously. 1. That Samsara is the world of being motivated by craving or aversion (avoiding pain and seeking pleasure), I have been using the word Samsara for years but suddenly 'get it'. So my life is about 2. Removing the obsurations (caused by craving and aversion). Simple in a difficult way. So the Bodhichitta is the only thing with worth and meaning. The Dali lama said a 'I am not a Buddhist I am a person who aspires to remove the obscurations'.
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
Before we left the uk we let the bank know that we would be in india and they assured us our card would not be stopped now they knew this. On our first day in India we could not draw out cash and when going to an internet account found our account to be non existant. We found a STD! (phone), and spent ten pounds explaining the situation to a bank worker in england who assured us in 15 mins our account would be active and that it had been blocked because of unusual activity (ie, india!). 48hrs later it was still non exisatant and so the procedure of phoning the uk bank was repeated.
Sudakini bought an India sim card for her phone, this was time consuming and involved her giving details about her mother and father along with visiting a shop with a special room(escorted by a boy) with curtains and umberellas to have a photo taken, which when printed we had to present to simcard shop. Absurd.
we went to catch our train to Varanasi at 8.20pm which was 2 hrs late. We had to book 1st class as no others available until a few days time. It was small, stinky and dark but had a lock on the door but we slept pretty well. Unfortunately it was 7 hrs late arriving. We had a contact number and a guy called Kylash met us and said that as the Dali lama is coming everwhere is full and no room at all in saranath. He found us a room for R1000, the next morning we moved to somwhere else he had arranged for R1200, these places are way above our budget which is more like 300 - 400R. We went to the ghats and had a nice walk and saw many bodies being burn, it had a peaceful atmosphere. A boy told us the hotel behind us overlooking the ghat was 500R, which we discovered was true. Kylash, our helper was horrified to think of us staying there, sudakini wasnt keen either. I am worried about money. We have just found out there is 67Rupees to the pound, not 80 as we had thought. Kylash has invited us for dinner tonight with his family, so we will do this and tomorrow go to Sarnath and pray we find a place to stay as it is a long way to commute, apparently there are 25, 000 monks here at the moment. We are grateful for this opportunity to take adversity as the path! xx