When you reflect on the concept of bowing I think it becomes quite clear how little bowing there is in our lives. There is a lot of resisting. We resist change, we resist influence, we even resist obviously good things like love, tenderness, open-heartedness and vulnerability. For our stubbornness is quite often not really serving us it is a good idea to learn to bow.
Moments ago the sad but touching news reached me that Thích Nhất Hạnh is passing away. He is still in is body but he is on his way out. This is sad news for us but also beautiful because he is 88 years old, lead a wonderful life and is surrounded by his closest students who he has been training for many years to be completely present with him in this very moment. We don’t have to feel sad for this beautiful Buddha, he is well prepared and ready, but for mankind it will be a great loss.
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.
But being on the road is amazing. I never was into camping so I am completely unexperienced. Yesterday I drove from Sydney to Port Macquarie, some 400 km, of course assisted by the GPS. When I was in Port Macquairie I stopped for food. And I realized I should get ready for sleep. Now what? I certainly did not want to go to a camp ground. Everything is so expensive here and I wasn’t prepared to pay for just parking my van between other vans. So I opened Google Maps on my iPhone and dropped a pin at a little peninsula; the place where the lighthouse turned out to be located.
What happens when you find back your long lost child? You decide you will never let it happen again. At least, that’s what I decided. From now on my son goes with me everywhere. I will never let him out of my sight, hold his hand tight. My son and me, we will start giving talks and workshops on how you can find back your lost one’s too. Because I feel that every mourning parent has the right to happiness, relief and completion.
Now what is the problem here? What I discovered today is that something involentary has snucked in, something not-so-free. Tagging my boy along to show him to the world as evidence that liberation is possible might not be the most compassionate thing to do. First I locked him away, now I drag him along. In a way my son is not free. Fear has entered the equation again. First I was afraid to find him and afraid to look in difficult place, now I am afraid to lose him. This is my problem, not his. I feel guilty and ashamed when I don’t bring him along.
As I open my Word document with blog posts and get ready to start typing I see the last paragraph of my previous post. Clearly I was in a different state of mind when I wrote that. My answer to “how to escape from this hopeless sadness?” was “well, you just stop it”. I made it sound so simple. Ironically, I just spent 3 days going through all kinds of motions and I think I tried everything to enter a peaceful state of mind. If somebody adviced me to “just stop it” I had probably punched him in the face. What I ‘forgot’ to mention last time was that “it’s simple but it ain’t easy”. And sometimes “not easy” is bordering to impossible.
Because of all the attention my open letter has drawn and Genpo’s reaction to it (no reaction at all unless you count the disappearance of my post from his wall and the complete deletion of his whole Facebook account a day later as a reaction) I cannot help but contemplate on the relationship with my teacher.
By writing the letter I got a taste of what it means to be controversial. I wonder if this is what Genpo feels and I wonder if it is addictive. Unfortunately, it seems I cannot do the same thing twice so it will be hard for me to find out. I remember writing a funny post about 2 months ago that was very well received. It planted a seed in my head: “you must be funny! More people will read your website when you are funny!”. Long story short: I never wrote a funny post again.
It has been 4 full days since I posted my ‘open letter to my teacher Genpo Merzel’. Because I wasn’t sure if Genpo read the letter himself I send him an email, informing him about it, giving him the link and inviting him to respond. Yesterday morning I received an email back from him asking me to send him the letter as an email as he could not open the link. I send him a pdf file at 12.43. pm. At 5.14 pm Pausha Foley posted a comment on my blog “Your post was removed from Genpo’s wall – did you remove it, or does Genpo censor his wall to show only positive feedback?”
And you know what? I don’t care so much. The post could have been removed by accident, by technical failure, for political or commercial or out of fear or anger, by Genpo himself or by a third person. I just don’t know.