BodhiZendo – The Zen experience and beyond…

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One fine day my Yoga teacher and friend Ms.Saraswati sent out an invite to join a meditation retreat at the BodhiZendo Kodaikanal. I signed up for it without doing much of a research because I felt a very strong urge to just go there and try meditating.

I applied and luckily got the approval from Bodhizendo too.  On 20th July I started off to Kodaikanal with the three men in my life. We reached around afternoon. Spent the evening boating, walking, cycling and horse riding around the lake. Went back to our room for a restful sleep. The next day morning we visited local nurseries (of course how can I miss this part, it’s my favorite thing to do – add more biodiversity to our farm). I spent a couple of hours just selecting flowering plants and avocado saplings.  My son Big S was not feeling quite well as he had caught a cold, so we stopped our nursery visits, my husband dropped me at BodhiZendo and drove off to his native place Virudhu nagar.

I reached BodhiZendo joined the other 15 participants from YogaVahini, attended the orientation and then began the official “Silence”. To be honest I absolutely loved the little room that I was given for stay – neat , simple, orderly and clean.  I am a total cleanliness and order freak. I love keeping things organized, clean and neat. Life challenges you when you love something a lot, so I have two little boys who can make the house upside down and messy in no time.

BodhiZendo gave me the silence, cleanliness, order, discipline that I yearn for.

Our daily schedule was

5:30-7 am – Zazen (seated meditation)

7 am – Breakfast

8-9 am – Samu/Seva – work is assigned to each participant

10:30 – 11:30 am – Zazen

11:30 am – Talk by Bodhizendo

12:30- Lunch

3:00 pm to 4:00 pm Zazen

4 pm – coffee/tea

5:30 to 7 pm Zazen

7 pm Dinner

8 pm to 8:30 pm – Zazen

It was interesting to realize that my mind was a monkey manifolds bigger in size than I thought of. Zazen being open eye seated meditation, sitting without movement and watching the mind play it games was a powerful experience.  My assumption that it would be hard to sit still was quite wrong. Surprisingly sitting was easier thanks to my yoga asana practice, it was the mind that was quite challenging to control

The next day morning I got a message from my husband that my son had wheezing and doctors wanted him admitted in the hospital for two days. I just broke down and cried my heart out in my room. I had thousand questions in my head – my son had never had wheezing before, why now? Why when I am not near him? Why should I be here when he needs me?

I messaged my husband that I want to come to Virudhunagar but he sternly refused and said you meditate for him there, we will take care of things here.

I went to the Zazen with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, but those two sessions of zazen where when I knew what Ekagrata meant truly. My mind was totally focused on just one thought “My boy should feel better and should not need hospitalization or nebulizers”. What a Mothers heart mind can do to protect her child is a blessing. I returned to my room later, checked with my husband and he said he took him to another doctor for second opinion and they said hospitalization was not needed. That moment was so powerful it shifted things inside me, I realized the power of true dharana practice in the state of Ekagrata. At the same time I also realised that I should not get deluded that I can get everything my way, that’s why he still needed nebulizer may be :). I thanked the Universe with all my heart.

Unfortunately I caught a cold, really bad one, so sneezes and running nose definitely disturbed my zazens. What really surprised me was how I enjoyed the silence. I always believed that the trees, hills, flowers were the best spiritual masters, this was reaffirmed every time those beautiful flowers smiled at me and we conversed in silence and fragrance.  How they all do their work with no expectations “Nish Kama karma“, how selfless their service is!! Even when you cut them or pluck them those trees or flowers still try to smile and do well to you. This quality is definitely that of the greatest of greatest yogis. You name any part of the ashtanga yoga and there we humans can never beat these trees, I bet. That’s why we all feel peace and joy when we spend time closer to nature in its purest form, for they are totally aligned in accordance to the dharma of nature! Truly enlightened masters!

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The Samu or Seva I was given was garden work. Renga, Lekha, Saras and I worked both days together around a tea house or gazebo. We worked in perfect co-ordination with no words spoken!! That’s when I realized how much we talk unnecessarily in our lives! So much of prana spent uselessly lot of times. The quality of mindfulness reflects in the quality of the work done for sure. The gardens also made me feel at home. Working with the soil and fallen leaves was such a joy!

Another thing that really amazed me was the compassion and consideration each one had for the other at Bodhizendo, how they respected the need for silence of each other. If we could incorporate this in our everyday lives, there would be very less arguments and quarrels I trust.

This retreat reassured that “Spiritual or Sacred Activism” is the need of the hour! I read an article at the Bodhizendo notice board which was very close to what my friends Sangeeta Sriram and I discussed long back about spiritual activism. Yes lots of work has to happen inside for it to reflect outside. I truly pray more people take up “SACRED ACTIVISM”.

At the end of the mini sesshin, when the silence was officially broken, the people at BodhiZendo appreciated wholeheartedly saying that our group was extremely disciplined and extremely fit physically. I am not sure if I truly deserve these appreciations 100% but I have taken the sankalpa to strengthen my practice so that I really deserve to be called Disciplined and Fit.

Most work at Bodhizendo was done in an organic, thoughtful and sustainable way, but there were a few changes that I suggested to Father Cyril. Father truly like they say in Zen way accepted them openly, mindfully with complete non-judgemental acceptance. It was a humbling experience for me.

All said and done, I am relieved and reassured that the path I have taken in life is indeed the right one for me!! Santosa 🙂

It was not quite easy to enjoy the zazens always. At times it was mixed feeling of physical pain, boredom, wanting to go for a walk or sleep some more time. Rajas and tamas kept fluctuating but at the end the heart felt light and extremely joyous!

Satva for sure dominated in our minds, the bus we took to come down to Madurai broke down a few minutes after the start and we had to wait for a longtime till we got a replacement. Not one of us cribbed instead we were all happily singing beautiful songs in Hindi, tamizh and French (thanks to Marie).

I am very grateful to the Universe, Saras and Bodhizendo for this wonderful experience! Though Fr. AMA samy the Zen master was away from Bodhizendo when we went his joyous spirit and love reflected in all the nooks and corners. His child like innocence and pure heart was quite evident in his videos.  I was pretty sure the plants and trees and Bodhizendo are so healthy and happy, receiving all the positive vibes from the meditations.

Let love and peace be spread more through more inner work!

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Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi!!!

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