Blue Cliff Monastery – Day 5

I don’t remember what today’s meditation was.  I think we were allowed just to sit with our breath, but I spent most of my time wondering if it was raining.  For some reason, it always sounds a little like it’s raining in the meditation hall, but today the rain sounded legit.  I was concerned because I wasn’t dressed for the rain and didn’t want to get soaked on the way back to my room.  When I caught myself thinking about all this, I had to laugh because it didn’t really matter at that moment if it was raining or not, and I was getting myself all worked over up of the possibility that it might be raining.  It was a little comical given the context of what I had been doing over the last week.

It was raining a little (though not as much as I thought) when we left the meditation hall. One of my roommates and I braved the weather to practice yoga on the porch together, which was just as nice as practicing in the sun.

Our dharma talk today was a question-answer session with the monks and nuns, which was enlightening, tender and hilarious all at the same time.  Later, we split up according to gender and had more concentrated, personal discussions specific to us as women or men.  To me, there always seems to be an inherent sexism in religious organizations and at first I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this dharma sharing with my fellow women and the nuns.  My concerns were quickly allayed as we touched on topics about femininity and womanhood, our bodies, our relationships with our mothers.  I didn’t have time to share, but these are topics I have spent a lot of time with over the last few years.  I grew up with the notion of women as strong, but it wasn’t until I spent some time in Japan, where they have very traditional gender roles, that I really began to experiment with the idea of women as soft.  I think it’s part of the appeal of birth – an act that requires a woman to fully claim her power in a moment of complete surrender.

This evening we celebrated our week together with the Be-In.  This was a compilation of skits and songs and stories performed by each of the groups that embodied what resonated with us over the retreat.  One group taught us how to find the North Star, which turned out to be one of the more tender presentations.  Other groups danced, sang and one group did Blue Cliff Retreat jeopardy, which was by far the most hilarious.  We also had a delightful MC – one of the brothers who shared witty remarks between presentations.  Afterwards, we all stood outside looking at the stars, pointing at the sky and finding our True North.

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