Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dharma for dinner, lunch, breakfast and snack

In reviewing my hand-written diary for the last month, since the notebook is almost full, I ripped out the dharma talk pages in order to file them with other dharma talks from the last five years. What was left was a minority of pages recounting daily activities, snippets of novel (I write most of it directly onto laptop now, much to my own surprise) and the occasional poem (don't write many of those anymore). Out of a notebook of 200 pages, less than 50 were daily writings or journal entries, the rest were notes from the last month and a half dharma rampage of sorts - a week in Toronto doing Miksang teacher training (and the notes in the notebook were only from the times I wasn't type-transcribing the entire weekend's training!), Shambhala Arts training Levels 1 & 2 in Minneapolis with Lisa Manley, a weekend study of the Heart Sutra and Non-Violent Communication with Paul Shippee, plus a talk last Monday night with John Dunne, Richie Davidson, and Father Thomas Keating on contemplation and education. Phew. As Becky noted, at least the talk we went to last Monday wasn't a whole weekend and was, in a certain respect, "dharma-light" in comparison to the rest of the month. If you extend back into the notebook before, you get a September of Venerable Khandro Rinpoche's visit, and the super-uber intensive Shambhala Guide Training which has authorized me to give meditation instruction. It's been a very full few months, ironically, also the three months (almost done now) in which I am required to sit upwards of 30 hours a month, to meet the 'probational' requirements of becoming a meditation instructor.

Although Laine and I have joked that we should have a stamp for our kitchen calendar that reads "Miri on retreat", these weekends aren't truly retreats. Recently, birdfarm asked if she should attend a weekend retreat of these sorts, and I was able to see that it wasn't what she needed - she needs peace and quiet, not barrages of information and philosophy. As helpful as those things are, they aren't always what's needed, and in seeing so clearly that it wasn't what she's needed, I pushed aside my own fear of sounding ungrateful and realized that, in fact, getting sick the last few days (before my vacation of 10 days, which begins today), forcing me to cancel classes and pt work, was also a result of too many dharma weekends, too many non-retreats. Too much information, travel, and lack of time to digest. I *am* grateful, but Becky pointed out as I confessed this to her that it's not helpful if one uses dharma as an excuse to block oneself from what one really needs - days at home doing laundry, listening to itunes, calling friends who've recently lost loved ones (two in one week! ouch!), or reading mystery novels (shout out to Laine's rents for the Cara Black book).

I am primed to look over these notes now in the next week, make cd's from my recordings of the Paul Shippee talks, and do some digesting. I am also primed to "watch it" a bit with this stuff in the future. It's especially hard because I already teach some weekends, and weekends are becoming more and more precious to me. Luckily, and it feels so weird to say this, there are no more "retreats" or dharma weekends planned for the rest of the year. I just need the space to digest. I am teaching two one-day workshops, but those feel like a breeze so long as I have a Saturday before them to putter around the house and not get dressed.

Time to go grade WCATY kids, who are sharper this time around, as well am I. Repetition is such a blessing - a class that killed me the first two times I did it now feels so much easier, even with my fullest and youngest class ever (25 5th graders). It is funny how repeating sometimes makes a task easier (like this teaching) and sometimes repeating (like weekend after weekend of dharma talks) just makes things clearer, though not always easier. Sigh. : )