Pre-Retreat Observations

Tonight marks the beginning of an extended weekend retreat in Mahamudra teachings at the meditation center. In BigCity, NC I had dinner with one of our sangha’s favorite teachers, Jay, who travels from Philadelphia to offer workshops and programs and will be directing the teachings this weekend.

I arrive at the center unfortunately late and a bit harried, only to find out that I’m not the only one running late. Immediately I am calmed and ready to relax into the weekend – besides the nightly writing, I have lain all other tasks aside and even got Saturday off from the coffeehouse.

Jay and I hug and kiss, and I take note that it has been at least six months since we’ve seen each other. He is a petite man in his early fifties and has been practicing the dharma for well over thirty years. He has soft white hair and is slightly balding on top, but his skin is firm and shiny, bearing very few wrinkles. His eyes are puppy dog brown and easy to look at. Ever since my first workshop with him, I have sensed enthusiastic compassion from him in the finest sense of the word. He has an energy that I admire and want to be close to.

Since I am no longer in school, I welcome this opportunity to be near a teacher I respect and feel close to. Jay is the kind of teacher who loves to talk, but somehow manages to avoid coming across as egotistical or wrapped up in himself in the process. Dialogue and explanation are his fortes, not his downfall, and for people who need a soft-handed instructor that values thoroughness, he is the perfect teacher.

Jay studied with Chogyum Trungpa (the founder of our lineage), lived near him, practiced with him, and currently receives direct teachings from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamsto Rinpoche. When I first started meditating, all of this meant nothing to me. The deeper my practice gets, however, the more I appreciate Jay’s presence and profundity of what he has to offer. Tonight I am thankful for the openness that the Shambhala practice has created in my heart – where once I was a bitter atheist, now I am a happy Buddhist who is finally getting comfortable with naming my own spirituality. Who knows what the weekend will bring…

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