Wow! I just realized it has been more than a week since I made my last post here. I think that’s the longest gap I have had since I started. Gaps are good in meditation. The instructions say to rest in the gap when the out-breath is complete and before the next in-breath naturally rises. However, getting busy, distracted and caught up in stuff is a different kind of gap!
I just exchanged a couple of emails with a friend about our experience of re-entering “normal life” after being in retreat at Lerab Ling for three years. We both remarked how life has this quality of always keeping one busy. Once one task is completed, the next two already pop up. I’ll share some stories about my personal samsara today!
Contractors in Hawaii are notorious for being unreliable. Compared to what I heard from others, I was still quite lucky and there was no real disaster. So, I probably shouldn’t complain too much. However, I ended up having to think through all the projects in detail myself and watch the work with eagle’s eyes, to make sure it is done right. We are an hour away from the closest town and it has been a common occurrence to discover in the morning that an essential piece is missing and I ended up making seemingly countless “shopping runs” to Hilo, so that the builders time was not wasted.
Just when I thought we were finished, my tiler threw a few final curve balls which required two more “shopping runs”. Then when he left, the outer part of our deck, which he didn’t tile, looked like a horde of elefants had played in the mud. The only way to get the dirt off was to re-stain and re-seal it. On top of it, I caught a flue last week, probably while eating a very healthy organic pecan pie at the local community center. The fork was most likely not washed properly. The plate was a piece of banana leaf, so that was probably ok 😉 ! Due to this flue, my last week was spent in a strange kind of low fever, coughing, brain fog. That’s what samsara is said to be, one calamity happening on top of another!
I tried to build in a little bit of nirvana into my life during this period, too. I figured, if I can work all day to paint my deck with water proofing sealer so that the tiler can come back, then I can also go to the Qi-gong weekend that took place nearby last weekend. It was a very interesting experience. The class was not very traditional but very experientially oriented. They called it a “Everyone-can-get-it” type of chi gong!
I managed to make it through the program in spite of my foggy state of mind. The group put up with my coughing and miserable physical presence and I was rewarded with being able to take home a few breathing exercises and more feeling for and understanding of this discipline. This will be very useful for the open Qi-gong “come and follow along” exercise session I go to once a week. When it got difficult I thought of the Buddha who is said to have jumped over a cliff to receive a line of teaching. (He persuaded the ogre to give the teaching first of course.)
I also read a very inspiring spiritual science fiction titled “Slade and the seventh nuance” written by Katalin Koda. When I am sick I often feel I just want to lie down and read something easy. Katalin lives a few miles down the road from me and I met her a couple of months ago because her husband Leon painted my room when we first moved in. We discovered we were all practicing Tibetan Buddhism, and so I made my first Tibetan Buddhist friends on Hawaii! The book, which she gave us as a gift, had been sitting on my coffee table, waiting just for this moment to come into my life.
Slade is a wonderful story of spiritual adventure involving mind travel to different galaxies and many stories of healing and spiritual training involving all sorts of human and non-human beings. There were beautiful healing visualization with light, stories about the power of sacred objects, and explanations of how imagination creates reality. I am sure some elements of the story was inspired by the Vajrayana teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. I have received many teachings about healing practices involving visualization, sending and receiving of light, assuming different spiritual bodies and forms, but, although I like them, I have always found them quite difficult to practice. This is probably because I have been raised in a very un-imaginative, un-creative and un-emotional environment. In case you would ever like to experience such place, a good place to search would be Germany! They are not difficult to find in Germany 😉 !
Because I find visualization practices so difficult, I have actually moved back to mostly more simple practices for a while but reading this beautiful story inspired me back to them. The problem is that I usually try too hard to get it right. Reading Slade inspired my imagination and fantasy and opened a door to a deeper belief in that these practices are actually working.
Since it has been an exhausting week and I am still a bit unwell I actually meant to do just a brief post today. I had in mind quoting from a book by Mingyur Rinpoche where he is writing that the real purpose of meditation is not about just feeling good, peace and calm etc. As you can see, most likely due to my foggy state of mind, I instead drifted into writing about my personal samsara and nirvana! Maybe I will write about the quote from Mingyur Rinpopche next time!