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I just returned from a little weekend retreat at the Lama House of the Tibetan Meditation Center of Frederick Maryland (TMC). To provide a little background info, briefly, I am presently experiencing bodily resistance when it comes to deepening my meditation practice (to say the least), so… I was very happy to be a retreat cook. What this means – bodily resistance – is that I notice discomfort and tension in my neck when I do any kind of Vajrayana practice (deity yoga) and I am taking it easy for the time being, or to be more specific, I am practicing patience as these obstacles dissolve.
These events are called PDL retreats because the retreat center is the Phuntsok Darjye Ling, which is associated with the TMC. This weekend there was a Vajrapani retreat happening, and when the email went out that they needed a cook, I jumped for it. Drupon Thinley Ningpo led the weekend retreat.
I have never done Vajrapani practice before, which means I have not received that blessing ceremony (initiation). But it was okay, due to Drupon giving us a lung or transmission to start things off Saturday morning. Vajrapani is purportedly a very potent practice, and I have heard Lamas warn people to wait until they are ready to practice Vajrapani – that they should start with a gentler practice like Green Tara or Chenrezig for instance. But I do not want to put words in their mouths. Vajrapani is one of the three Lords of the Dharma (I think I am saying that correctly), along with Chenrezig and Manjushri. While Manjushri is associated with wisdom and the head, and Chenrezig with compassion and the heart, Vajrapani is associated with potency or energy and the pelvis – the three main centers of the body – head heart pelvis equate to wisdom and mind, compassion and loving-kindness, and creativity and potency.
The woman who I was to assist said that she was under a bit of stress in her life, plus she had an hour drive to get to Frederick each day. So I told her to come in a little later in the mornings – leaving me to start things off. Oh – and she also did all the planning and grocery shopping.
While the fifteen or so retreatants were downstairs in the shrine room doing the practice, and gaining merit for all sentient beings (including the cooks), we were upstairs chopping and boiling and stewing. Saturday morning I made blueberry pancakes for the first time. Yum! They turned out pretty well, however, I think it is important to spread out the blueberries – when they bunch up, the pancakes tend to fall apart. But they were very tasty.
Then, for Saturday lunch, we made curried chick peas. This is definitely an Indian-type of dish, as cumin, turmeric, coriander and other spices went in, along with onions and tomatoes. It was a big hit. One of the retreatants is a Spanish professor, and she mentioned that a Spanish poet wrote an essay about chick peas – talking about “golden nuggest of bliss and delight.” For dinner we stir fried veggies and then we had to come up with a peanut sauce on the fly. It is amazing what manifests when peanut butter, hot sauce, rice wine vinegar, tamari and coconut milk come together! Oh – and I fried tofu. Fun with bean curd.
Sunday breakfast was pretty normal, but then we spent the entire morning prepping for lunch – which was Thai food that neither of us had cooked before. And believe it or not, this was actually not a recipe for disaster! Hehe. We made a Thai mushroom / lemongrass soup which had many ingredients – the only issue there was that we tried to convert the ingredients from a recipe for two people to sixteen people and we ended up with three times too much food – needless to say we had leftovers. We also made Thai spring rolls and a salad. All in all I think the retreat went remarkably well and in this case, I’d say the retreatants had something to look forward to on their breaks. In fact, they may have been reluctant to leave the kitchen / dining room to go back down and practice – oops! Middle way? (have good food, but not so good that they are developing new attachment and huge desire for it? not sure what the right “recipe” is here…)
I dedicate any merit we may have accumulated to all sentient beings. May all beings know the potent purity of spiritual practice and realize their natural state!