In addition to the delicious, fresh and healthy food, daily exercise and my monumental Zen moment, there was another equally exciting moment when a stash of chocolate had been found! Perhaps now would be the time to mention that said chocolate stash was located at the very back of the bookstore, in the corner, on the lowest shelf, tucked in back of … well, emergency feminine hygiene products. I don’t know about you, but this makes perfect sense to me! Within a few minutes, all the chocolate was sold out, gone, zippo! All of this happened, of course, during the time that I had been pondering the meaning of life without technical gadgetry in my journal down at the lily pond.
It wasn’t until I had wandered back up the hill and saw everyone sitting and huddled together in what looked like a big ball, eating chocolate, that I realized there had been a sacred stash (the nuns were holding out on us!). I would have been completely out of luck had it not been for a nice lady who bought extra and insisted I take one of the pure, rich, solid, milk chocolate bars (I am convinced that only at a Buddhist retreat would someone be nice enough to share the only stash of chocolate on the premises). Being no fool, or rather a fool who loves chocolate, I immediately and graciously accepted her offering. Within moments I was having my second Zen moment.
The next time chocolate surfaced, it was I who saw it first. I chalk this up to pure coincidence that I happened to be
hovering standing at the food table when the chocolate covered strawberries arrived. Like a swarm of bees, we all made repeated trips until we just couldn’t eat another single bite of food. I must state for the record that these were the best chocolate dipped anything I’ve ever eaten. As we were learning to follow the “middle way” we did not eat all the dessert, saving a healthy portion for the following day, which we devoured by noon. Pat, one of the women at my dinner table didn’t like chocolate. She preferred the strawberries without embellishments and so she used a knife and fork to peel off all the chocolate, at which point my disbelief was evident by the widening of my eyes and dropped jaw. I intensely stared down and studied her bowl. As if she had been reading my mind (which probably was not difficult given my obvious facial expressions), she laughed and said something that for the life of me I can’t remember. What I do remember is that she gracefully slid the bowl across the table, smiled and told me to enjoy the chocolate. And so I did!
Both retreats flew by quickly, much more quickly than I had wanted. I was sad on the final day of the last retreat when people packed their bags and departed, one by one. The laughter and goodbyes grew faint until there was only silence. There I sat on the a chair under a tree, feeling pangs of melancholy, the same pangs I felt as a kid on the very last day of our family vacation. I was not ready to leave. I had learned so much, and I realized the more I learned the more I wanted to learn. The time that I had spent at the Buddhist temple was special, and I cherished every moment, even the moments of awkwardness due to forced silence and chants in a language that I did not know, moments of withdrawal from high-tech gadgets and creature comforts I had grown used to. I missed Bill. I missed Webster, but I was not yet ready to return home, return to my fast-paced, frenzied life and I certainly wasn’t ready to go back to work. I had finally relaxed, calmed and silenced a very noisy inner critic.
As I was heading around the corner from the pay phone that was on the blitz, which meant that I would need to drive to a point where I could obtain a cell phone signal in order to request another day off from work, I happened to see Pema, one of the Buddhist nuns, standing on the edge of the deck outside theGompa. Or rather, I should say hanging off the side of the deck, cell phone in hand and held high up over her head. My first reaction was hysterical laughter. Picture this: A bald headed nun dressed in a full Tibetan ceremonial robe hanging off the deck trying to score a cell phone signal! Oh how I wished that I had my camera. I know what you’re thinking right about now, and you’re partially correct. I did, indeed, whip out my cell phone. I typed in a text message asking my boss for another day off. I leaned off the side of the deck, just as I had seen Pema do, and held my phone high above my head until I heard the all to familiar “bloop” of the text message being sent. I was fairly certain my boss would approve the additional vacation day. I then turned the phone off, tossed it in my backpack and slowly snaked my way up the long, steep hill to a sit in silence in the middle of the woods, to bask in the sunshine with only my journal and prayer beads, and my simple desire to experience pure tranquility.
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