In the summer of 2004 I traveled to Vermont to experience a personal retreat in a Zen monastery. The location was beautiful, purposeful and the practice experience was familiar to me, having spent most of the prior decade in a Zen environment. As I drove away I had every intention of restoring my connections with Zen-shu after nearly 5 years of no affiliation with any particular sangha. The only other experience I had in those intervening years was some very fulfilling study with a Pure Land group. I felt that a good sangha was worth the 500 mile trip several times annually.
On leaving the monastery I had decided to add on a few days of walking in the Adirondacks. I chose the Green Mountains because it meant easy access to the legendary Appalachian Trail and promised some challenging forest walks. The main day walk was a few hours up a gradual forest slope to one of the many shelters provided on the Trail. I reached it and rested to have my lunch and enjoy the view over the mountain-top lake, on which the shelter stood.
|Typical Appalachian shelter|
In early afternoon it was time to return back down the trail and I was mulling over the future of visits to this region for a new sangha. As I walked, and in spite of a few inglorious slides across rain-slicked rock-faces, I wondered if my leanings towards this distant sangha were the right one. I reflected back over the past few years and my isolation from an active sangha, on my early experiences with driving from Lanark to Montreal every month for practice connection and a growing awareness of the vow we all take to present the Dharma where we find ourselves.
Next week: Germ of a Sangha
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu