I sit here waiting for my passenger to arrive, as I am about to embark on a long journey back to Virginia. And as I wait, I ponder what the two previous days have been like as I got to spend them at a retreat center with my heart teacher.
I was out here a few days ago, and at that point, I recall how timid I was to get my hands dirty. I helped him with some trim work, but I was basically just an assistant who held things, handed him tools and held the light as we got started late in the day. And then I remember how I wanted desperately to change that part of me – the delicate, “oh I do bodywork with my hands, I must not get them dirty” part of me. (There may be value to protecting my hands for obvious reasons, but if I wear gloves, then I can do just about anything and they are fine!) And I succeeded. Yes, definitely succeeded!
So what did we do the past couple of days? Honestly, I’d say we cut down and then moved at least 10,000 lbs of trees – most were dead but we did cut down a couple that were in precarious positions that were quite alive. Normally I might balk at chopping down live, healthy trees, but when it is my heart teacher doing the cutting, I wonder if my objections have any worth to begin with! And if there are any tree spirits getting upset, I am certain he is negotiating with them somehow.
We built a large bonfire with all the dead wood. Plus we cleared out the bamboo grove to allow for people to pitch tents at this upcoming Winter Retreat they are having down here (Drong Ngur Jangchubling – Wesley Chapel, Florida). It looks to be a rocking retreat by the way. Too bad I am going to be in school.
But I got to pose a few Dharma questions to my teacher. I got to share meals with him. And I was blessed to get my hands dirty. In fact, yesterday I was so eager to clean up the retreat center property that I just spontaneously started weeding and dead heading several beds! I was impressed 🙂 And I cleaned out a lot of dead plants which were very dry and made the bonfire that much larger (if only for a few minutes).
Actually at one point (and then it happened again), we cut down trees that were leaning precariously out over the pond. Rinpoche figured they would fall in the water soon and he wanted to clear up the land – make it seem larger by clearing some of the bushes and lower trees. Anyway… I tied a rope to the tree trunk ensuring it could not fall in the water and become irretrievable. And guess what I was reminded of? Keep in mind the water is extremely gunky with algae and mud…
I was reminded of the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Luke’s X-wing fighter sinks deeper into the swamp. I was kind of hoping Rinpoche would use some sort of energy (or the Force) to raise the tree out of the water… 🙂 Then I would be amazed! Instead, I had to be amazed at his humility as we spent the next hour pulling that tree and another out of the water. We had to slowly and painstakingly (grunting with exertion) drag a little of the trunk out of the water and then use the chainsaw when we had the opportunity to lighten the load. So some of the wood had to dry out before it was thrown on the fire!
There is something mystical about sitting and watching a fire. It is almost as if it is alive with its own energy and volition. Of course the winds affect it too. But it was primal and beautiful to tend the fire from time to time. Oh – and burning bamboo is a hoot. The workers next door, working on the road, remarked that we had been burning bamboo the previous day, so they calmed their coworkers to remain calm – all the popping was bamboo. I’m assuming they meant, it is not gun fire, rather it is safe. Hey, we are in Florida. From everything I have heard down here, those words of caution are necessary (ugh!). 🙂
As usual though (when spending legitimate, dedicated time at a retreat center with an authentic Lama), I was rewarded last night with a cool dream. When I ran it by Rinpoche this morning, he said it was a good dream. It did not have literal meaning as far as I know, but I do want to spend time soon working to interpret it.