Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Retreat At The Monastery

If you ever feel like your life moves too slowly, simply take a couple of vacation days and you will no longer feel like that. I have been off for the last four days and it seems like the blink of an eye. When I went to bed last Thursday night I gave myself the gift of a full nights sleep and the joy of waking up naturally. On Friday my eyes opened up at 8:59 AM and I felt great. My overnight bag was already packed so all I needed to do was shower and hit the road. I did subject myself to the chaos of my local McDonald's so I could drink a latte on the road. It was mid morning and rush hour was over but the traffic in the city was still busy and intense. Soon enough, however, I was out of the city and I settled into a peaceful drive. Oddly enough, the further south I drove the more colorful the leaves seemed to be. I was listening to a new CD and the lyrics to one song went "This earthly heaven is good enough for me". I felt the same way as I took in the natural beauty around me. It was obvious, though, that this area has seen little rain. It is very dry in Kentucky.

My weekend retreat was a very large one. Nearly 70 people attended and some, including me, were not able to stay at the monastery. Since my friend, Fr Dennis, lives less than a mile away, I chose to give up my room so someone else could have it. I should mention that Dennis has two full grown Basset Hounds. If the Buddhists are correct, and there is reincarnation, I would like to come back as one of Dennis's dogs. They are definitely living the good life. Besides being companions for Dennis, they also double as alarm clocks. They decide when the day begins. Before I got settled in at Dennis's, I went to the monastery, sat for a while in the garden, went to noon prayer with the monks, and had lunch with a friend. Afterwards, I returned to Dennis's house. He was away and the dogs were running around in the backyard so I had some very nice quiet time which was very welcome after all my morning activity. While sitting in the semi darkness and wonderful silence, the wind blew through the trees and played some beautiful music on the deeply toned wind chimes hanging on the front porch. After Dennis returned, we talked for a while before I took an afternoon nap. When I woke up a couple of hours later I felt like I had slept for a hundred years.

Much of Saturday and part of Sunday was spent at the monastery. I attended some presentations, sat in the garden, and walked around the property. During one walk I listened to the siren song of the bookstore and gave in to the temptation to buy yet another book. On another walk I climbed the hill across from the monastery where I sat in a chair on top of the hill and took in the 360 degree panorama around me. It was a bright, clear, sunny day and the surrounding landscape was beautiful. I was lost in my thoughts and the moment.After I participated in a closing ceremony and a group picture, I headed home. As much as I love the monastery, and as hospitable as Fr Dennis is, there's no place like home. It was good to sit in my own chair and sleep in my own bed. Yesterday I stayed home to play catch up. I read three days of newspapers and emails, did some laundry, hauled some stuff out to the shed, and enjoyed some new Grateful Dead CD's that came in the mail. Thirty years ago this month, the Grateful Dead played three concerts at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. On the third night there was a total lunar eclipse. How cool is that? Finally, after all this time, they have released the best of those shows on CD and DVD. Life is full of beautiful days and small pleasures. Although the whole world seems to be going to hell right now, and I am afraid to look at my 401K, I still think that life is grand.

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