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The Diamond Mountain Blog

This is an unofficial blog of news and info from Diamond Mountain University and Retreat Center which was founded by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of the Dalai Lamas.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lake Tahoe

I just got back from four days in the Lake Tahoe area. I went there to see my buddy Steve and two friends, Mira and Jarrett. Steve was my 'boss' during a couple of the building projects we did in the retreat valley. He, Johneo, and I got past that 'boss' thing real fast and became good friends. I went to Steve's home in a little town over the pass from Tahoe. It was green there. Water flowed in irrigation ditches through open green fields. Huge pine trees shaded the little town. Tahoe was similar. It was so peaceful and beautiful. The mountains on all sides made me feel very protected. Also, the economy there is not so bad as in Southern Arizona. People were happy and business' were open. "Amazing", I thought, "There's work here." Living as I do, I had figured that the rest of the country was just like Bowie. Yes, I need to get out more.
I want to share some of what happened to me on that trip but it is difficult. You don't know the characters involved in the way I do. And there were so many. People I hardly knew or knew not at all were very kind to me. They went out of their way to help me. Every thing I needed on the trip was given to me. It was shocking in a good way.
I want to talk about mental seeds, sometimes called karma. I do not fully understand this concept but I am running experiments. Being out here serving the retreat is one of these experiments. One of my teachers said that you can know what type of mental seeds you have planted in the past by examining the present relationships you have with the people in your life. Are you getting along with people? Are other's trying to hurt or bother you? I had an experience in Tahoe that is bringing this to mind. I got to reconnect with a person in Tahoe that I haven't been around since retreat began. I liked this person. I got a good feeling around them. We had a good friendship. In Tahoe, I noticed that our relationship had changed. I now LOVED this person. And the feeling was mutual. Perhaps the other person always felt this way, I don't know. What astounded me was how clear and strong it was. It was as if, by no effort of my own, love for this person came to live solidly in my heart. I could say, "A seed for loving you ripened in my heart." When I was younger, I think I loved for not so good reasons. I usually expected something specific from the other person. It was about what they could give me. The thing that astounds me about this new Love for my friend is the quality of purity of the affection. It's like we see each other for what we are and want to help each other and just, how to say, revel in the others company.
Why I mention this in the context of mental seeds is because it is an experience that took roots in the past. I want to have friends that I love strongly. I did not have so many in the past or I was always far away from them. From a very young age I was curious, in particular, about how Jesus loved people. I heard that he loved everybody. He loved children. He loved lepers and hookers and his enemies. He loved the world. I wanted to know what that felt like. So I could say that this desire has been a seed in my heart for a long time. How could Jesus offer his other cheek to someone who just slugged him in the face? He could do it because he loved everyone like they were his very close and old friend. He loved them desperately and would give them anything they needed to help them grow. This natural and effortless break through I had with my friend in Tahoe has made this clear. I had thoughts like "I will move to where they live and help them with their life projects." This is a remarkable state of mind for me considering how I've felt about my future life after this year of care taking is done. I had been thinking "No more helping people. Time to help myself." But I see that Love does not live in that place. I can take care of myself and help and love my friends. Tahoe helped me refocus on that. The love of my friends there woke me up.
In retreat news, many of the care takers took a little picnic and hike down near Indian Bread park at the end of Happy Camp road off of Apache pass today. Elisha is back on the land for a little while. She and baby Priya and Grandma Tahiya came down bringing Ven. Chandra and Tiana. Denis is back for a bit and he came with one of the Israeli visitors. Heather, Suzie, and I came up from Bowie. There was a little water in the rock pots and we saw such wonders as water bugs and frogs around these little oasis'. There is a very real cave up there with it's own dark pool and mysterious depths. I saw a flash of an animal back in there which gave me a start. It was a very beautiful day. We are all very lucky to be alive.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

End of Summer

The Great Retreat goes along. A few people are still building on a small scale. Some gutters need to go up. A porch is being finished. The care takers deliver materials as needed. Some electrical work is being done. Some burned out batteries from Solar voltaic systems being replaced. The retreatants are learning about how to care for and not over burden their systems. I feel like it will be this way up into the winter. This first year is all fine tuning the cabin life style. Once they don't have to think about maintaining their homes they can sink deeper into meditation, I would think. The campground is quiet. The two guys that live there are seasoned desert dwellers. I think there is a visitor from Israel there. The three couples that live in the homes up there seem well. I have a wish that before the retreat is over, a way to pay them a small stipend is discovered. A stipend for eight care takers.
In the evenings and early mornings it is turning cool in the desert. I sleep under the covers now. It is such a relief. Living in Southern Arizona has helped me understand the sun as a merciless destroyer/creator god. I get it. Sometimes I will go out to my car in a tank top to get something and within those thirty seconds of sun on skin I feel something akin to pain. The sun is starting to cook my skin. We had a little rain last night which was heaven. My man Johneo came by for a day as well. We made some food, caught up and played music. To say it was good to see him is an understatement. When our evening was over I went home and observed how much better I felt. I was so happy I spent the rest of the evening listening to recordings of Geshe Michael teaching ACI classes back in NYC. Friends, I have not really touched the written or recorded teachings of my lineage since late winter. A couple of weeks ago I walked by my meditation cushion in my room and flipped it off. I meant it. Sit on yourself, A-hole!" That has been my attitude toward study and meditation. I am in full rebellion. I fight it on every front like a spoiled teenager in full hormonal defiance. My buddy Steve was telling me recently when he first noticed that I was pissed off. It was near the end of the retreat valley building project. We talked about it then. I didn't have what I wanted. I was poor. I still depended on my parents. I couldn't afford to fix my own car. The women I liked were choosing other guys. And I was mad about it. Apparently I have stayed mad on a low burn. Observing myself interacting with others in this state over the last nine months has been very eye opening. I have not been fun or very kind or very open hearted. My apologies to all those around me. I see that my poverty and obligations that bind me to the house in Bowie have acted as a sort of hot box for exposing a lot of crap that lay dormant beneath three years of intense dharma study and magic close to my Lamas at Diamond Mountain. Avoiding personal problems by hiding behind a "spiritual practice" is a major problem. It defuses the power of the practice and never touches the very real mis-perceptions about yourself that hold you back in life. The "you" in that sentence is really "Me". A teacher that I greatly admire once said something like "You have to have a healthy ego before you can break it apart." Thank god DMU terms ended and the Lamas either went into retreat or moved far away. It is the kindest sort of teaching for the long term student. For me, it has accelerated my mental afflictions to a degree I have never experienced. Without all the good projects and the presence of the Teacher, which is very special, the student really see whats going on inside. Have I made progress? What is progress? Do I still care? Retreat also serves this function which is why it is so valuable.
An interesting thing about this last nine months of misery (oh alas poor me) is that the moments where I do love others, friends and family, are much more intense. The letters I get, the short visits, are like food. Manna from heaven. I understand that now as well. It is a sensation of bodily nourishment and health. The prana (chi,energy,spirit) moves up, the heart opens and relaxes and the presence of possibilities emerge from a previously "flat" reality. I could have all the things I want. Why do I not create them. The raw material is right there. It's astounding how much I am my own worst enemy. Who said "I have seen the enemy, and it is I" ? Was that Pogo, that little cartoon cat?