I’m home from my first week of “Community Dharma Leader” training at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, and I’m very glad to be home. The rainy, cool weather in New York right now is the perfect soft balm after some scorching heat–inside as well as outside. Since the organizers of the program understandably asked us to honor the confidentiality of others, I’ll stick to my own experience (I always do anyway).
It was surprisingly painful! “Contact! contact!” wrote Henry David Thoreau in the concluding pages of The Maine Woods. Dag Hammarskjöld was of the same kind of person, not content to just think about life, wishing to experience it in the body, heart and mind–wishing to live in the largest possible context. So off I went, heart on my sleeve–and learned that before we can really make contact with reality we have to learn to pick our way through what the Buddha called the “thicket of views.” I came away with such respect for someone like Dag Hammarskjold, who was capable of maintaining an inner silence and calm in the midst of the most heated conflicts. I came away wishing to learn what it means to live within.
The most profound experience I had last week came one morning after I climbed down from the top of a mountain on the Spirit Rock grounds. I had a moment of being truly present, aligned inside body, heart, and mind, on a mountain top in California, surrounded by pine trees, feeling “I’m here! How amazing!” –and I made an offering of myself in return. In exchange for the gift of being there I gave up all my stories and cherished heartache and allowed the light of a finer attention to pass through me. I was willing to be still and know there is an infinite. Soon enough, this state of willingness and receptivity turned into wishing to always be like this, and you know the rest, thinking about it, etc. I noticed the way mental phenomenon, feelings, life keeps moving along like water in the stream and flowed back into the meditation hall and took my seat. The talking about differences resumed. Just for a moment as I sat there a persona I happened to be facing seemed filled with that same light I had glimpsed on the mountain. Only they couldn’t see it or feel and I couldn’t convey it. I felt like an angel in Wim Wenders’ lovely movie Wings of Desire. I thought of that quote from Gurdjieff that you can’t fill a hungry man up with bread just by looking at them. What can we do for one another?
I tried this way and that way, overcame my shyness and spoke in the big crowd, in little groups, etc. etc. Through it all I really felt the need to cultivate a way “to live within” in midst of life. It saw how easily I get knocked out of balance. I’m really interested in that special kind of willingness and receptivity that comes to us when is in alignment inside. It’s an ability to receive things in the light of awareness–imbued with a kind of grace.
I suspect it takes being willing to live a big life in the ordinary sense. As Ric Ocasek of the Cars said: “It doesn’t matter where you’ve been as long as it was deep.”