So... we have been nearly six weeks in San Francisco. We arrive at the airport to be met by Karunadevi who takes us back to her house for food and sleep then drops us the next day at our accommodation for the next 3 weeks in the annex of the SF Buddhist center. Dazed and disorientated with jet lag, like neither of us have ever had so bad before, we settle in to our comfy room and wonder where the sunshine and Sangha are... After two cold, lonely days the friendly people start popping up everywhere. Warmth and generosity have characterized our contact with the SF Sangha. In fact so much generosity that we have found that receiving is a more challenging practice than we would have thought. As Viveka put it "don't block the flow of giving by not being able to receive" (I paraphrase - she was a little less blunt than that). We have found that some of our views around finding it difficult to receive generosity from others include feelings of indebtedness and powerlessness. It's a good practice to not let this get in the way. I think we have managed quite well!! Money has been a theme in general - learning to be frugal without being stingy. Trying not to let poverty mentality get a hold. Actually we are so rich in so many ways. Just not with pounds and dollars. Sudakini veers towards extravagance and being too laid back with the bucks and Vajralila veers towards super frugality - between us we just about manage to strike a balance, but not with out some "process".
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.