Offerings (10)

I got home from my retreat yesterday afternoon, exhausted from a week of too little sleep. The inner work we did took great effort, too, and gave us great rewards. I can’t count the number of times I looked around the zendo, awed and grateful—all these brave people who had come to do this hard work together. On the last day we sat in our circle and focused on each person one at a time. We offered words or phrases that emerged for us, images of what we remembered or who we saw them to be. The one who was the center of attention just sat soaking it in, all these wonderful and sometimes funny things people believed or remembered about them. I was afraid when it was my turn no one would have anything to say. Or, maybe even worse, people would say a few things, and then there’d be silence until the rest of my time ran out, and the quiet bell rang. Instead when it came around to me, the words were steady, plentiful. I only wish I could remember more of them so I could hold them to me now and then for comfort, reassurance, hope. I remember things said about my big heart and sitting there receiving each one as it came. At the end someone said, “Devoted.” The last word spoken was Susan’s. “Impeccable,” she said, and met my eyes. I think I raised an eyebrow at that. Me? I was grinning through my tears while they showered me with shining things they saw in me. They drifted into me as they fell, warm, delicate, like sacraments, like blessings.

On My Behalf (45)

One-day retreat at the meditation center. First two surprises: a silent retreat and “custody of the eyes.” I keep my eyes down except for three accidental glances, feel like a mouse scurrying by in the long grass. It amuses me. In the parking lot, looking at the southern mountains and eating my soup, it comes to me that I could break into wild winged dancing and waving of clothing, unseen (like the mouse). Our teacher breaks the silence now and then. She is calm, open, funny. Once she speaks of our soft animal bodies, and I think of the poem. She is like that to me, a soft animal, a big, peaceful bird, maybe, a brown pelican, part big cat, too, sleeping in the sun. While we sit I feel again the hard weight in my chest. I am reading Andre Norton now, and I think of quan iron, blue-green, touched by magic. A blade of quan iron inside my ribcage. I am fascinated by it, cultivating curiosity. I want to know it, sidestep the urge to be rid of it. I am certain it has worked long and hard on my behalf. I want to honor it. The fourth time we sit I feel so strong it surprises me, and when I check on the quan iron it’s as though my chest is in a different place than it was in the morning. When I come home I can tell there is much more room inside me. The next day, it is gone, but I remember how I felt larger. And I remember how strong I felt in that one sitting, like I was a big oak, or that tree whose name I don’t yet know with the gnarled bark who makes those big blossoms in the fall that litter the ground like starfish.