The autumn has been relatively busy, with a steady stream of guests for retreats and weekends, in addition to our two lay residents: Adrian, who arrived in September, and AnneMarie, who arrived in early December. There was a good group of people on the last weekend of October for the retreat including the Segaki Ceremony—Feeding the Hungry Ghosts. The musical kwatz, performed by three people playing a bell, small drum, and cymbals in a complicated sequence, calling the ghosts to come and to ward off the insincere, was particularly good. (Doing this and other ceremonial is a very effective—and challenging—way to learn meditation in action. It requires paying attention not only to what you are doing yourself, but also to stay in sync with others and be flexible to accommodate subtle changes in speed and volume. You have to let go of all self-consciousness, fear of failure and worry what others will think. When ceremonial is done correctly, all those inner and outer entanglements are addressed over time and transformed into “just practice”. )
Bijou the dog had a fairly major surgical procedure done to remove about a dozen teeth, his upper and lower incisors. These teeth were worn down to basically nothing but exposed roots, in all likelihood the result of being put in a metal cage as a pup and then gnawing on it. The vet said that the teeth were slowly going to rot and were probably painful, so they were all pulled. They also removed a small growth on Bijou’s back. It was a tough week for our little pal, but he got through it and returned to his usual happy self—if possible even sweeter and a bit more relaxed.
In October three women of the Central Coast Meditation group helped with driving and hosting Rev. Phoebe for a group meeting in Morro Bay. About a dozen people were there and meditation was followed by a Dharma talk with discussion. The group meets once every month and Rev. Phoebe has been visiting twice a year. The next time will probably be in the spring.
So far this fall the weather has been kind and we have been able to visit with the Ventura Group every month. In January there will be no group visit, but we will pick it up again in February ”if the creek don’t rise.”
Our annual autumn retreat was completely full this year, including some very old friends who have been practicing for many years. We looked at a small book by Pema Chodron entitled Awakening Loving Kindness. On the first evening, Rev. Phoebe invited people to share an experience of tenderness that they either had witnessed, or felt in their hearts, or been the recipient of. Tenderness is one of the four aspirations of the Bodhisattva according to Dogen, the one which usually gets the least attention. Interestingly, the atmosphere in the room began to subtly change, and became very tender just by us all contemplating how and when we experience this feeling. This tenderness remained very present during the retreat, and it changed the way people interacted. Our discussions of the four aspirations: charity, benevolence, tenderness and sympathy, were particularly poignant. At the end people were asked to express their impression of the retreat in a single word: heartfelt, beauty, family, grateful, homecoming, caring, nurturing, heartened, unexpected, mellow, joy, honesty and inspirational all came up. This retreat has been going on for 16 years, and we plan to continue doing it. The Spring Retreat in April is its counterpart; please check the calendar if you are interested.
Rev. Phoebe had eye surgery in November to remove a cataract and implant a lens. This was her second eye for this procedure, the first one having been in 2006, which restored a better level of vision in that eye. As of three weeks after the surgery, the eye is healing and Rev. Phoebe is experiencing better vision, despite the fact that this eye is the weaker of the two.
In early December we held a well-attended festival of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. It was a joyful occasion. On Saturday was the lay ordination of Adrian in the morning, and the reading of the Life Story of the Buddha in the evening. On Sunday, after two periods of meditation, Rev. Phoebe gave a moving Dharma Talk, followed by the festival ceremony and then a potluck lunch. It was a rainy weekend but many people were able to make the trip to the temple in between showers—and the roads remained open. At the beginning of the Festival ceremony the sun broke through the clouds and suddenly flooded the hall with bright light—very inspiring! Several more people came for the day in addition to those already here for the retreat.
Now that the temple has been here for 20 years some things are starting to show their age. We had the ceilings in the Buddha and Dharma House painted and the many of the walls as well; we needed to replace the shower stall in the Sangha house; and we are replacing one washing machine which has worn out. We are grateful to have the support to do these things and keep the temple in a good state of repair and comfort for everyone.
We’ve had early rains this year—and snow in a substantial amount of about seven inches, for the first time in several years. The early onset of winter has meant the early abatement of fire season, which always comes as a relief.