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As Ratnaguna pointed out, dwelling in such an uncompromisingly bright land tends to invite one’s shadow. Every retreat brings a process for each of us, and today I knew the retreat was reaching something more in me when I found myself weeping in morning meditation. After last night’s talk, I was touching a deep grief for all the imperfection in me-and-my-sangha: the views I bring that make things hard for me; the ways interpersonal dynamics sometimes obscure our shared faith; the ways different language or models for practice can disrupt loving connection. ‘Paradise lost’ indeed…
As the morning went on, I found myself hooking familiar old stories onto the emotion, creating a confusing and pre-occupying tangle. How apt that our theme was confinement - how beings who doubt the pure land are born in Sukhavati, but inside a closed lotus bud so they’re cut off from the benefits of beauty and the Dharma. I could see I was shutting myself off…and trying to think myself out of the lotus bud wasn’t working. Ratnaguna reminded us of Bhante’s distinction between a difficulty and a problem. A problem can’t be sorted out, you have to become a person for whom this isn’t a problem. I’ve always thought about that in terms of Big Problems, the ongoing cremations grounds of life. But today, I realised I just needed to do something different, and went for a swim. The delights of a retreat in the city!
Suitably refreshed, I enjoyed the rest of the day - another talk, another reading, another puja. It’s really lovely seeing the Buddhist Centre so ‘lived-in’, with the sangha engaging with each other and with practice more deeply.