When we read about the earliest period of teaching, whether this be the Buddha himself or numerous other teachers, it should not surprise us to realize that teaching and practice happened principally in the outdoors. Yet when we look at practice environments and practice opportunities in the modern period, such outdoor practice has an aura of exoticism, as if it were reserved for the most elite of mystics. There are many reasons for this slanted view of outdoor practice, some of them from with in Buddhist history, some are inherited from the anti-nature philosophies of the modern West.
Beginning in October, we will be designating half of our practices as indoor and half as outdoor. Further, because we will be out of doors half of the time, we will give extra emphasis to walking on those outdoor practice sessions. This means that the first Saturday and the first Thursday of each month will be structured around outdoor practice. The Saturday morning practice will align itself with our sunrise orientation, and so we will base those practice sessions at the covered platform outside of the museum next to the hydroelectric Falls. The walk to this location allows us to cross the celebrated swinging bridge, both coming and going. That practice location also means we are practising against the gentle sounds of the waterfall.
For our evening practices, on the first Thursday of each month, we will likewise align that practice with the sunset and Amitabha practice, including the visualizations that are occupying us this year. We have a couple of potential sites where we can do this practice and over coming months, we will choose the one which allows for the best reviews of the setting sun.
Practitioners will no doubt appreciate that we place ourselves at the mercy of the weather, which in certain seasons can be quite inhospitable. We will attend to the weather and give preference to times when we are not exposed to extremes of cold, snow or heavy rain. All those who attend these practice sessions are provided with a waterproof mat, and a cushion to sit on. Each person should ensure they have sufficient warm and/or weatherproof clothing.
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu