Monday, June 24, 2019

Back in London (More Mindfully?)

One of the blooming trees outside the main building of the Buddhist Center was positively teeming with butterflies every morning. Here's one of them -- a painted lady, I believe. I had to stand there for quite a while before the butterfly cooperated and opened its wings for a picture!

Well, I'm home now. I got back at about 10 p.m. last night, having done the same train-train-train-bus combination that got me to Waldbröl, but in reverse. The traveling wasn't hard, but it was long. We didn't even get started until mid-afternoon and we'd all been up since 5:30 a.m., so after finally trudging up our street and opening the front door I had just enough energy to greet Dave and Olga, eat a peanut butter sandwich and unpack my bag before falling into bed.

Now I'm lying here in the morning stillness, drinking a cup of (real, brewed) coffee with both Dave and Olga snoring next to me, and it feels wonderful. I can't wait to take a shower and get to work on my laundry. Doing laundry after a trip always feels so satisfying to me, like hitting a "restart" button.

I'm also looking forward to reacquainting myself with the garden. Several things have bloomed or changed in my absence. Remember the poppy that sprouted at the edge of one of our flower beds? Well, it got broken off a few weeks ago -- probably by Olga -- and I put the stem in water, hoping it would survive just long enough to bloom. In fact, it had a purple flower while I was away -- Dave took a photo and sent it to me.

Here's another bug I saw frequently in Germany. This is called a firebug. (I had to look it up.) They were common under certain trees, and every day during walking meditation we'd see them on the ground -- I was always afraid they'd get stepped on, and I'm sure some did, but if you're a tiny insect and you have to be surrounded by gigantic people with gigantic feet, I suppose your chances are much better if they're Buddhists!

As I said in my last few posts, I found the retreat to be very positive overall. There's always part of me that wants to get the heck out of there, particularly at the beginning and at the end -- this was true when I did Zen retreats years ago, too. Part of me always resists, wanting my human comforts and my routines.

But once I settle into the rhythms I usually find some valuable insights, and I think I had them this time, too. I have things to think about and to practice with -- some internal things, I mean -- as well as a renewed appreciation for moving just a bit more slowly. We'll see how long that lasts! The challenge will be to maintain those realizations in some form once the afterglow of the retreat has worn off.

And now, back to real life!


  1. Welcome home! And thanks for the beautiful pictures and meaningful posts of the last few days, albeit under more difficult circumstances.

  2. Flip the firebugs round and the designs upon them look like miniature African war masks. One wonders why evolution provided them with this design. What is its purpose? Maybe its to ward off Buddhist photographers when in the process of making firebug love.

  3. Glad to see you are back home. Those bugs you photographed look like boxelder bugs that I used to see growing up in Illinois. However, I just looked them up and they aren't exactly the same. Similar but not the same. Have fun doing the laundry.

  4. Mr. P. is correct about the firebugs looking like little masks.
    Glad you are home and safe and content, doing your laundry. Or at least I assume you're content.
    Enjoy your home, your loves, your washing machine!

  5. contrary to mr. YP's observation above, i think those distinctive markings on the mating firebugs are more likely to ATTRACT buddhist photographers on nature walks, especially those who appreciate nature's wondrous symmetry. welcome home, traveler. thanks for taking us to germany with you.

  6. When I look at your experience I see one more way of looking at things from a different perspective. We have to sometimes think out of the box.

  7. Sometimes I think the whole world needs to go on a Zen retreat. The madness of these times needs a quiet mindful balance. Those beetles are gorgeous. I love YP's observation that they look like masks. They really do. Enjoy your delightful peaceful exhale after such a journey. Welcome home.

  8. How will your experience ultimately benefit the students and others with whom you work? I recall you mentioning that the school helped pay for this? So just wondered...

  9. I envy you and applaud you at the same time.

  10. Its good to take a break,breathe,relax and then calmly assess life..and then make sure you get enough time to "breathe" regularly

  11. you are so industrious! got home at midnight and still unpacked your bag before hitting the bed. my bag usually stay packed for at least two days after I travel.

  12. I'm glad you feel you've gotten good insights from your retreat. Time well spent!

  13. On the subject of not treading on insects. I do a kind of tip toe dance when I put the food down for the fox each night, particularly if it is damp, trying not to tread on any slugs or snails. lol
    Most people think I am mad but I think everything deserves a life in this world.
    Maybe I have a bit of the buddhist in me.

  14. At the Buddhist retreat I have attended over the years (Tassajara, San Francisco Zen Center) there are little prayers written on signs in the garden, asking the insects and rodents that are sacrificed, to forgive us. An appreciation for their lives, and a reality check that we need our food to survive. You might want to Google Tassajara Mountain Zen Center for a looksee. It is set in a deep ravine in the Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur. Quite a place. (And I know what you mean about settling in, and then the leaving. Always happens to me.)

  15. So that's how insects mate? Those really do look like African masks! I hate walking on sidewalks when it rains and the earthworms come out. If you're walking after dark it's impossible to miss them.

  16. David: Glad you found the posts interesting!

    YP: I thought the same thing -- the "masks" are a great pattern, aren't they? As with many insects that evolve to have face-like patterns on their wings or shells, it's a form of protection, I guess. A little firebug pornography never hurt anyone!

    Sharon: Those boxelder bugs look like they might be a relative -- so similar in their coloring and the structure of their heads.

    Ms Moon: A washing machine is a fabulous thing.

    37P: Ha! They ARE so photogenic, aren't they? I think bright colors in nature often ward off predators, telling them the bugs are unsuitable to eat.

    Red: Absolutely! Breaking out of our habits is a great way to shift our thinking.

    Robin: We would all be much better off if the whole world went on a Zen retreat, I think! Do you think we could convince Trump to fund it as a national security expenditure?

    E: Yes, the school paid for the whole retreat. The idea is that it develops a capacity in teachers to be happier, more resilient and more flexible in dealing with students. More mindful, basically. We teach kids a lot of mindfulness techniques too. It's a different world from when you and I were in school!

    Catalyst: Well, thanks for the applause, but don't envy me. Anyone can practice mindfulness!

    GZ: It really is just a matter of making time, which I'm not so great at. I hope to be better about that.

    Ellen: I'm one of these people who has to unpack right away. I hate having a packed bag full of dirty laundry lying around.

    Jenny-O: Absolutely! I do think it will be beneficial.

    Briony: I think you DO have a bit of Buddhist in you! I do the same tip-toe dance on our patio, especially after it rains.

    Tara: I have several friends who went to Tassajara from the Zendo I attended in New York (Village Zendo). I haven't gotten there yet myself, but maybe one of these days!

    Sue: I think insects mate in a variety of ways depending on the species. And yes, I hate walking anywhere where I'm inevitably stepping on critters, but sometimes it happens.