"Autism & Memoirs of an Old Maid"…C'hele's Story

May 14, 2007

Social Retreats

Filed under: Poetry — C'hele @ 15:20

Heart,

Find connection

To the minds light

Once more

Mind,

Find the strength to perfect

The inner stillness

That has escaped you

For so long

Soul,

May you finally find

Your sense

Of belonging

Spirit,

Understand that your presence

In very minuscule ways

Is still connected to every

Living being in the Universe.

C’hele

—————————————————

I had to smile to myself after reading David’s post tonight. Here David struggles to find a solution for his chronic stage fright and social phobia’s and here I would rather retreat into an isolated comfort zone in order to deal with my own lesser social discomforts. I commend David for seeking a remedy to his social ailments. I was reminded that for many months now, I have been pondering the possible many ways in which I can find balance and respite for my own soul.

Last May I had an amazing experience in one of our local Buddhist Temples here in Richmond. There are two temples, both Chinese, but each are dedicated to different forms of Buddhism (one of them I was not fond of). One Saturday afternoon after the break up of my last boyfriend, I paid a visit to one of these temples. It was dark and cloudy that day and it reflected everything negative that I was feeling in my heart at the time. Extremely depressed, I figured I could do one of either two things. Go to the bar with my cousin, have a few drinks and man-bash the whole night or I could take this opportunity and visit the Buddhist Temple that has always captured my attention (but I was too intimidated to go and see). I decided that the latter was a more positive avenue. I went to a florist shop down the road from the temple and to my delight I found and purchased a purple, long-stemmed rose to give as a gesture of respect. Purple in many cultures is considered to be the colour of spirituality, attainment, wisdom and understanding. After purchasing the rose, I drove down the street to the temple. With the rose in my hand, I walked and stood at the threshold of the temple’s courtyard. An auspicious wind at that very moment stirred and the various temple bells began to gently chime in harmony. Closing my eyes, I could feel the serene energy suddenly surround me. Extremely nervous and very intimidated, I finally took that step in. Within the centre of the courtyard was a beautiful gazebo with a gorgeous, white, ceramic Kwan Yin in the centre. The gazebo was only big enough to only cover the Kwan Yin, her altar, and two kneeling benches. Kwan Yin is a Chinese goddess that represents mercy and compassion towards all living beings. Adjacent to the gazebo was a brass stand full of sand for people to place a lit sandalwood incense stick in. I went to light one but instead of placing it in the stand, I carried it with me and stood in front of Kwan Yin. She was one of the most beautiful things I had seen in a long time. Laying my rose down on the altar before her, I kneeled on the stool and bowed my head. Not knowing any Buddhist prayers, I tried not to think. Instead, I allowed myself to be absorbed the moment, of being presently aware of my surroundings. After a few minutes, I got up and placed my incense stick in the brass stand.

Looking about the surroundings, I had this strange feeling come over me like I was no longer in Canada but instead, I was in a mystical far away place. I noticed many wall hangings with many Buddhist scriptures, sayings and general explanations on the construction of this particular temple. This temple, The Lingyen Mountain Temple, is an amazingly beautiful place, a true sanctuary for the senses. For the longest time, I was alone save for a few worshippers that walked in and then disappeared. I looked around to see where the nuns and monks were; I saw no one, though I knew I was being watched. After a short time, a young nun approached me and with very broken English invited me into the information room. There, I found myself in a room completely decorated by breath-taking carved cherry wood imported from China. The nun invited me to sit and as I did so, another nun suddenly appeared from no-where to give me a cup of organic Jasmine Tea (my favourite tea of all time). Sensing my discomfort of obviously being out of my realm, the nun quickly put me to ease. After a wonderful conversation, she invited me to stay to either watch or participate in their daily Amitabha Buddha Chant and Dharma service with the assurance that I could leave at any time if I wished.

Not wanting to leave this incredibly serene environment, I was thrilled to stay. Needless to say, my curious observation turned out to become four hours of practise. I participated in their walking meditation and chant, a separate sitting meditation and chant, did prostrations and listened to the Dharma being spoken (interestingly enough, by the head monk who was in another room, speaking through a microphone. I was told that by his doing so, would be less-distracting). I also sung Buddhist hymns in Chinese with the assistance of an elder nun!! When I first entered the room, the energy almost knocked me on my butt, it was so intense. I looked at the altar – I can’t even describe it’s beauty. A dark cherry wood encasement surrounded a most beautiful and large gold Buddha. In a single horizontal line, below the Buddha, were large (I mean “large”) spheres made of pure crystal, amethyst, citrine, and I think rose-quartz and more. Interestingly, the nuns sat to the left of Buddha and the monks to the right; it was a perfect Yin/Yang in my observation.

I soon found out that this particular temple practised a form of Buddhism called “Pure Land Buddhism.” This form of Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism (Zen is another branch). Pure Land focuses heavily on chanting (on Amitabha Buddha name). I have never witnessed this kind of chanting. Once the nuns and monks got into it, it lasted for a continual thirty minute’s without them even taking a breath! After the service was over I was stunned to discover that it was 10 p.m.! The head nun kindly offered me a doughy bun filled with vegetables, to help ground me (I was pretty wobbly to say the least after all that) and a place to stay for the night (she was worried about me driving). I was tempted, but had to get back home to fetch my daughter who was being watched by nana.

This experience has never left me and again, I find myself yearning to return. This time to possibly do a weekend retreat. I realized today, that I don’t necessarily have to leave the country for a vacation or respite. I was reminded of the far-away feeling The Lingyen Mountain Temple had influenced upon me. It’s my choice not to want to be around people and I intentionally seek no counsel for this. Actually it kind of scares me that I would have no difficulties whatsoever, separating myself from this world. I have been alone for most of my life, partner-less and I’m afraid that should I do a weekend or week long retreat, I’d never come back. As I age, my tolerance for people wanes and my emotional sensitivity increases. I admit, that perhaps I’m often over-sensitive at times but I have not lost my love for life, my humour and compassion. Due to my lack of being verbally articulate, I’m often misunderstood. I’m not the quickest thinker on the planet, but prefer to assimilate information thoughtfully and practically. Perhaps I would make a relatively acceptable nun hey? I admit that I’m tired of people attempting (I said attempting!) to take advantage of my good nature. This is a constant source of pain to me as I am not as stupid as they think.

The saying of “you’re in this world but are not of it” resonates deeply within me. Pondering further, if it were not for my daughter and her special needs, I think I would have my head shaved and become robed in an instant. In it’s stead, for now, I think I’ll plan to do a weekend silent retreat in my home. One full weekend of no T.V., phone, speaking to people, reading, utilizing the computer, and so on. I will have only water or herbal tea to drink and one vegetarian meal at lunchtime for the day. I will do yoga for one hour, twice a day, and practise my standing, lying down, and sitting meditation. I haven’t done this in a while, it should be interesting. Pondering further yet, I’m kinda tired tonight, which might explain my sudden great need to be alone but instead, rant about my thoughts here.

C’hele

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5 Comments »

  1. Welcome. I stumbled on a Vietnamese Buddhist temple not far from my home a few years ago. I had an intermittent personal zenny kind of practice before then. The practice at this temple is Pure Land, with some Chinese Zen, or Chan, once in a while thrown in. It is said that Pure Land is a perfect householder practice, as basically, you can keep that Namo Amidha Buddha going in your mind wherever you are. We have a regular saturday meditation sitting session, which I understand is unusual in this practice. There are some things I prefer from Zen, some things I don’t quite buy in Pure Land. But it’s down the street and it works for me.

    Comment by dougrogers — May 14, 2007 @ 19:04

  2. I absolutely loved this temple. This temple too, does a regular sitting meditation but not as long as the chanting meditation. This temple still beckons to me often; I am afraid should I walk in to do a three day retreat, I wont be walking out! Thanks for your comment 🙂

    Comment by cheles — May 14, 2007 @ 22:03

  3. I hope you have time to do the sitting regularly. It took me a few years actually to accept the chanting as a useful practice. We sit sometimes with the Awakenung bell, sometimes in silence, walk, chant a few rounds and do the Great Compassion mantra and prajna paramita as chant.

    Comment by dougrogers — May 14, 2007 @ 23:45

  4. Hello,
    I’m a volunteer and follower at the Ling Yen Mountain Temple..and I happened to stumble across your page. I just wanted to remind you, don’t forget to pay a visit! You are ALWAYS welcomed to the temple!

    Comment by Alyssa — December 30, 2008 @ 10:04

    • Alyssa: Thank you very much for taking the time to comment! That one visit, made such a huge impression on me and I fell in love with the temple immediately. Everyone there, were wonderful. I find myself often reflecting with fondness on that one visit. As a matter of fact, I pass the temple on my way to work everyday and always look through the front doors so I can admire the Great Buddha within. Thank you, for reminding me that I was welcome back to the temple. I just might do that soon.

      Peace to you 🙂

      Comment by C'hele — December 30, 2008 @ 22:22


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