“The essence of retreat is setting up a boundary – we are talking about a boundary of time, setting up a boundary between past and future, which ideally means we remain in the present.” Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
The days begin to fold, one into another.
While I’ve been resistant to calling our gathering here in a small monastery outside of Paro a retreat because by the standards of my normative practices within the Zen way, this simply does not fit the definition. But, as a time set aside, and with a relentless call to the heart – well, yes, here we are…
Jeff Carter, Sheldon Cohen, Dawn Duncan, Wendy Roberts, Nancy Doyle, Penelope Wong, Hang Nguyen, Jeanette Tran, Emily Turner, Mike Gruber, David Roadhouse, and of course, our group leaders, Marla Perry & Charles Simmons, directors of Two Truths. Me. And hovering nearby, always ready, our guide Tashi and driver Pema. And not far behind them Kezang Nendag, director of Wisdom Tours, who is responsible for the day to day of our time together. And of Kezang Nendag, I’ve some to see, is a serious person of the way.
That matters. Because of our intention, that matters.
The world gathered into a handful of people and a place. A koan: an assertion about reality and an invitation.
A caravan. A pilgrimage.
And at the very same time just a group of tourists.
We began the day with a visit to Dilgo Khyentse’s house and grounds. The Rinpoche has very much been with us throughout this adventure. From there to his monastery where we visited a shrine dedicated to him.
Honestly, from here I got confused.
And what passes for notes seem of little use. I suspect we passed into dream time. We were on the grounds of another monastic complex. There a visiting grand abbot gave each of us a blessing, using a small tablet taping us on the tops of our heads. We settled into a corner of a monastic grounds under a tent.
Although I found it difficult to do it “professionally,” I choked up at several points and struggled to keep that distance it takes to make a clear presentation. I simply tumbled into the mystery of it all, and had trouble being a leader. After my presentation David asked the question. What in that was so important to me? It drew out of my heart a response, “because its about me.” And my life. My beginning and the hints of my ending.
Of course it was also about everyone else there.
But I also realized the retreat of this retreat was in full flood.
At least for me.
Then I wanted to read the chapter on snares and traps in the spiritual life from my Introduction to Zen Koans. As I started a bunch of small children ran behind the tent, laughing a playing. One tried crawling under the tent behind me. I tried to tickle but he pulled back giggling wildly. Snares and traps. Then horns began blaring. And our guides who were sitting in the back stood up, straightened their clothes and walked away.
It took a couple of more minutes for me to catch up with how things had changed. I surrendered the talk and we tried to discern what was going on. Apparently the queen had appeared and was going to meet with the High Lama. We packed up and stood around for a while. When it became apparent neither the queen nor the lama were going to be wandering in our general direction we left.
More adventures. But for me lack of sleep and the enfolding mystery were enough.
We would visit the refurbishing site of a Fifteenth century temple holding some astonishing murals, of a quality exceeding anything we saw before.
And for me the day began to crumble toward sleep…