It's beginning to bite now this homeless life. We are at the half way point of our 6 months in the US and we have been without a home for 10 months.
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.