By witnessing pure communication – that is the best way I can describe it – I realized how contaminated our average day-to-day communication is. When we feel free, open and courageous enough to let the words flow from our hearts everybody has something interesting to say. Not that anybody made any effort to impress, be funny or profound. It is quite the opposite. When the masks are dropped everybody shows up as human, vulnerable, tender, authentic. Words seem to come effortless from varying places. Sometimes from a deep, raw and tormented place, sometimes from a blissful and graceful place, and everything in between.
Being on a zen retreat is weird. It is not that it feels like you become unstable but it feels like being stirred up. That is how I feel. Did I feel so quiet last night and bloodthirstily angry yesterday afternoon, this morning I feel a lump of sadness that I cannot really explain. Or better: that I can’t explain at all.
I woke up this morning from something very close to a nightmare. I was in a situation were I felt very betrayed and disheartened by somebody dear to me and the people who seemed to be kind to me and wanted to help me ‘get over it’ were people who betrayed me in the past. To be sad in the proximity of people who hurt me before felt unsafe and to find out that they tried to help me was confusing. I wanted to believe they had good intentions but I knew I should be careful.
The ceremony is intended as a fresher-upper, a cleansing and the creation of a clean slate. We renew our vows. I think it was about 25 minutes of bowing and chanting different sutras and reciting the names of the most important Buddhas and Boddhissatvahs.
To be honest I am not very big on the Buddhist services, the chanting and the ceremonies. For me it is a bit like going to family gatherings: I am not particularly looking forward but afterwards I feel kind of good. Especially in this case, when there was a lot more bowing than normally, I liked it because I feel a surrendering to the rhythm and the movement. Bowing is nice practice, it makes humble and soft if you do it often enough.
My fellow practitioners have been visiting the same sesshins as me for many years, many of them even a lot longer than me. So I see the same faces every time I go on retreat. Today I noticed how we ripen over the years. I really saw it! And I don’t mean aging but maturing. We all have our personalities with good sides and blind spots and in some way it feels so familiar to be here, as if nothing ever changes. But we do change. And we go step by step. Somebody said something like: “I am always preoccupied with the steps I want to take or wished I could take – the big and impressive steps – but I am never too appreciative for the steps I am taking. The small steps seem less interesting”. It was so beautiful and so true. I saw the faces of my fellow students and realized how many small steps they have taken over the years. If it is true for them it must be true for me too. (Quite self-evident but we do tend to place ourselves outside of that equation, I have fallen in that trap. But this time I didn’t) I realized how our lives take shape by the little steps we take and how I am taking my own small but deliberate steps.