Near the end of the first day, as the sun was setting I heard a female voice on the monastery speaker system float out across the huge expanse of the monastery grounds saying: “Can someone please move their vehicle? It is parked in the road…and it’s been running since 9am”. For me, there was first a moment of confusion. How does that happen? You stop your car in front of the retreat, open the door with it running, get out and head with determination to a mindfulness retreat. And yet, isn't this what’s happening all the time? We think we’ve parked our mind, but it’s still running, and we don’t know it. Talk about not being present!
Now the other event was just the opposite. People were beginning to gather for walking meditation. I was standing back a bit from the crowd so I could remain in the shade of a large oak tree when I saw Thay walk directly in front of me. He walked toward the crowd and took the hands of two children on each side of him and slowly they began walking as the entire crowd began to join in. I too stepped in right beside the children and Thay. We all followed, step by step, 1,000 people down a pathway through the woods in complete silence. Even the children were totally silent; 1000 people – silent. Just the sound of footsteps, leaves and sticks crackling under foot and the sounds of the wind through the trees. We eventually came out in a large field. Thay slowed, another monk provided him something to sit on and we sat, in a windy field, 1000 people in total silence. I looked out and studied each face. At some point a young girl pointed slowly to the sky, motioning for us all to watch leaves falling from the sky like butterflies. I saw Thay smile. He then rang the bell. Later he reached out and placed a child’s hand under the bell and rang it again. He then placed another child hand, and another, and another until all their arms formed a circle around the bell holding it and again he rang the bell. No one said a word. There was just this complete moment. Sounds of the bell, the site of leaves falling, wet grass, sunlight, the whole universe really. Eventually we all stood up and slowly, silently we began our walk back. I remembered something I read and have heard Thay say, “the miracle is not to walk on water, but to walk on the earth”.
Here are some pictures I took of this event.