Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

It’s about 10pm; Day One -- the first full day of retreat -- has just come to an end.

Not so easy, we started at 6:00am with prostrations to the 35 Confession Buddhas (purification practice); following that was the first of four Chittamani Tara sadhanas (practices). Sandwiched between it all was a two-hour teaching (focusing on refuge and the Four Immeasurables) from Khensur Rinpoche, and breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The sadhanas are fantastic but not so easy to stay focused, there’s much prayer, visualization and meditation and the mind slowly wanders away from the object of attention when it gets tired. And it’s during the wandering that for me, with the mind open, so much comes up. Marriages. Children. People. Places. Events. All kinds of stuff.

With it being Christmas Eve, during tonight’s meditations there was an unplanned romp through Christmases past. I think sweet and heart-warming for many, for me, tonight, not so much.

Yes, there is sweetness, lovely images, so cute and warm and special and loving, but tonight they were heart-string connected to the pain (for all involved, especially the kids) of divorces and broken families and destroyed dreams. Ex-husband and "part-time dad" are forever. My regrets, my guilt. It may have all happened years ago, but here the lid is off and up it all comes, razor-sharp and pungent.

There’s a teacher, I believe it was Rajneesh, who said you’ve haven’t really meditated until you’ve cried . . .

So, in the swirling mist of it all I remember . . . mindfulness . . . go back to the visualization, Tara Tara Tara Mother Tara . . . utpala flowers in her hands . . . . delicate light robes and precious ornaments . . . the letter TAM radiating green light from her heart. So beautiful . . .

Next up from the dark recesses, the realizations of how many Christmases there have been. I am 57 years old, and many of my age are fond of saying that our fifties are the new thirties. But eighty is still eighty, and it isn’t so far away anymore.

Ahh, Tara . . . her liberating radiance flowing into my crown and throat and heart . . . Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha . . . again, so beautiful . . .


This is the essence of practice. Faith and mindfulness and confidence and attention are required to do this kind of work: to keep our mind in focus and concentration on aspects and qualities that are resident within and tremendously beneficial. It is, in a way, kind of a paradox of practice, how we sit through the pains and boredom and mental distractions, but we cannot expect anything.

Monkey mind. NYC-kid-from-Queens mind. Old guy’s mind full of memories and experiences. Rarely do we realize how utterly controlled we are by our thoughts.

But here I am in Bodghaya on Christmas eve, sitting with a group of dharma students from all around the world, telling myself: “Just do the practice, plant the seeds, learn how the mind works, recognize and dispel the kleshas, focus, visualize, nourish, enrich.”

So I inwardly smile, straighten my spine, let the thoughts go where they may, and with patience and love go back to nurturing Tara. There is no fixed way to be a human being, but there are consequences. This path resonates with me; I welcome the consequences.

"Changes in attitude never come easily," says the Dalai Lama, "their development is a wide, round curve that can be negotiated only slowly – not a sharp corner that can be turned all at once."

Happy Christmas everyone.