The moment I meandered up the small hill passing fragrant Eucalyptus trees along the way, I sensed a different frequency. Something felt so right about the muffled sound of resonant temple bells in the distance and the serene presence of monks in plum-colored robes dedicated to the Dharma. In that instance, I felt an immediate sense of harmony.
I quickly became aware of the depth I often lack to my way of thinking â€“ am I truly the sum of all my thoughts? How sad. Just a couple of hours ago, I drove furiously down El Toro Blvd just so I could pick a number to stand in line at the post office. Mindless. Subconscious. Cyclical.
But quite glaringly, here at the monastery on the hill, with the scent of sandalwood-infused incense wafting throughout the grounds, I have entered a new world of reality.
My habitual, every day flow of thoughts & my subsequent emotional reactions to them dissolve into the fading sunset & beyond the surrounding Chaparral hillsides of Escondido. Suddenly, each footstep, every breathe, the momentary pause becomes purposeful & deliberate.
Atop the hill stood the most majestic meditation hall, fittingly called â€œThe Ocean of Peace.â€ We blessed the earth by meditating on the ground itself surrounded by rabbits, red fire ants, blossoming Oak trees, and the orange-hued sky. Such natural tranquility can only exist up here.
There was a deafening sense of quietness all around â€“ I felt untouchable.
But as I sat there, motionless against the darkening sky, the moon gave way to a flood of intrusive emotions that I wasnâ€™t prepared for. Stillness will do that. I had nowhere left to go â€“ no cell phone to answer, no email to respond, and no one to care for, except my own self. All I had to do was sit.
There is so much buried deep within the mind. And the subsequent pain, of course, is a result of clinging to them. I know better, but I canâ€™t do better. It is frustrating, yet I sit there, quiet, pensive, breathing still. In that instance, I feel a deep need to scream welling inside of me â€“ if I could just release it. I sit still â€“ feeling my aloneness, such desperation, and such groundlessness. All I knew, right then & there, was that I couldnâ€™t give rise to anger. But the sadness is palpable.
I feel my breath. I cannot explain the pure joy of the simple awareness of my in-breath and out-breath. Such lightness. All will be okay.
The moments pass, as they always do & it gives rise to different feelings and thoughts. Nothing ever stays the same, does it? Everything arises; everything falls way, says Ajahn Chah.
Time passes quietly by and we meditate some more, chanting and reciting with the Sangha; walking ever so gently throughout the monasteryâ€™s beautiful orchards; savoring our tea with renewed joy; sharing our organic meals imbued by noble silence; and allowing each & every sounding bell to recapture that inward peace â€“ a return to our home, where it all resides.
As Sunday afternoon approaches, I am feeling unsettled about leaving these sacred grounds.Â How do I allow this serenity to last? How do I carry this calm to the tumult back home? But I startlingly realize the enemy doesnâ€™t reside in Orange County, it lies within. There is no external passageway other than allowing the Path to arise within me.
And so I begin again.
In November, I plan to trek up that silent hill once again. You should join me.