August 08, 2007

Dharma & Rain

With August came both rain and Dharma. One month of summer is all we get, it seems. The weather has cooled, the clouds become more abundant, and a chill rain falls most days.

The Sakyong gave three talks as part of the program Enlightened World, only one of which I have written about, in addition to speaking at a Refuge Ceremony. A large number of Shambhala Staff took Refuge, including several of my close friends, in addition to a large number of the participants. It was as different as could be from my own Refuge ceremony. I am happy for them. Afterward, I overheard one young woman on the phone to her parents “So, I’m Buddhist now.”

Two minutes before the ceremony as silent ripple ran through the crowd. Pema Chödron had arrived. We had no warning. There was no fanfare, no lining the roads to wave, no cavalry honor guard. She simply walked in and sat down on a cushion in the front row. The next day, at the final talk of the program, she attempted to do the same and almost made it to her cushion before everyone managed to stand for her. We had a good laugh. When the Sakyong led us through a standing guided meditation, I glimpsed her sneaking out, straight over the lowered walls of the tent, bypassing the shoe room in the back, and sprinting in stocking feet up the hill toward the toilet house. A young woman sprinted after her, for what purpose I can’t imagine. Shortly she snuck back in, gently picking her way across the rocky ground in shoeless feet, and finding her cushion.

Later, as the Sakyong blessed everyone by bonking them on the head with a statue of Miphan the Great, she handed out small red protection cords which he had blessed. I now wear the red yarn cord which she handed me wrapped twice around my neck and secured safely with a double knot.

Before the Sakyong’s words have even digested properly, I went straight into Shambhala Training Level 3: Warrior in the World. This is a mixed format staff only level. We spent all day yesterday in Sacred Studies Hall and today we meet three times for meditation in between our normal work schedule and again after dinner. The program will conclude tomorrow.

Then on Thursday evening, after dinner, Practicing Peace in Times of War with Pema Chödron begins. This is the first program in which I will be a full participant, other than the staff Levels. I am looking forward to it with an interesting trepidation. Months ago, when I received my refuge name, I wrote about possibly seeing Pema. I don’t know if I will actually be able to meet her, but I will be close, receiving teachings from her along with hundreds of others.

Nights are cold and once again I am learning to tuck my head under the covers to keep my nose from freezing. I have two chipmunks who seem to have the same opinion of the wet weather, Edgar, my tent chipmunk and Lola, my office chipmunk. They don’t seem to chew things up like mice do, so I don’t mind. People say we could see snow before the end of the month.

Maybe it is a Dharma Snow, which gradually blankets the land and soaks in.

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