It is being such a privilege to spend this month in retreat in a cabin way up in the mountains, rising early to practice long and spending days in study and contemplation. And yet, yesterday, with an unexpected snowfall of 9 inches, the meditation cushion was abandoned, and it was on-with-the-pack-and-boots-and-out-the-door to spend the day in romp and play.
How handsome the Saulsberry boulder all dressed in snow! How graceful the laden pine boughs, the filigreed twigs! We hiked up ridge and down canyon, tracking deer and fox squirrel, (no doubt being tracked as well) with nary a thought for human trails, getting lost, getting found, the footing soft and forgiving, unlike the bare ground of rock and gravel, at every turn, a new vista of pristine range and basin. Can you die of beauty? It was a whole day of pure ananda, joy, bliss. And then, the light fading, we wended our way back to the warmth of the cabin, the stove and the mushroom barley stew.
So this morning, it was back to the mat and the formal practices of yoga – chant, pranayama, body sensing, meditation and study. One of the texts I keep coming back to over time is the 7th c. Vijñana Bhairava: The Manual for Self-Realization (112 ways for realizing one’s true nature), this time, thanks to a friend, a newly discovered translation and commentary by Swami Lakshmanjoo (1907-1991), the last of the living masters of the Kashmir Shaivism tradition. I returned to where I had left off two days before and turned the page to Dharana 49:
Yatra yatra manas tushtir …
“Wherever your mind becomes peaceful, put your mind there. If your mind is situated peacefully in working in the garden, put your mind there; don’t go in the prayer room for prayer. Going in the prayer room at that moment is a sin for you and working in the garden is the right way for you…Wherever your mind is appeased, in peace, there and then the Supreme Kingdom of ananda will appear to you.”
And so it goes…. it’s all grace