Thursday, 24 January 2013

Guarding the Bodhi Tree

    "Palladius said, 'One day when I was suffering from boredom I
    went to Abba Macarius and said, "What shall I do? My thoughts
    afflict me, saying, 'You are not making any progress, go away
    from here'." He said to me, 'Tell them, For Christ's sake, I am
    guarding the walls'."
                                                       The Paradise of the Desert Fathers

Meditation on the Acres was usually "bad". I don't know why; sitting a lot, and sitting alone, should have produced calmer, deeper zazen. It has in other places. But on the mountain I swam in past wrath and wrongs, in fantasies and what-ifs, and in worries present and future. My mind brachiated from ridge to river and back again, with utter indiscipline.

Our teachers tell us that sitting is what it is. Each time is the first, and each time is the best. And despite our expectations, those of us who do it a lot will tell you that benefits often only accrue when you stop.

And so it was on the Acres. Sometimes I sat for more than an hour, determined to find some kind of peace, or at least parity. At last, hips and knees creaking audibly, I gave up. And only then, struggling to stand on crotchety legs, did I feel the laughter bubble up.

And so I sat picket, hour after hour, day after day, back straight, shoulders square, chin racked. Guarding the Bodhi Tree.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson.)
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