Now emerged from my retreat time in our peaceful forest hermitage, i prepare to travel again.
The silent, secluded retreat time has been very kind to this body and mind, a gift of loving-kindness. The land was kind, beautiful and bright, or softly foggy, or deep and dark in the wilds of the rains. It is great to be so immersed in the elements, in the pure clarity of and freshness of nature. Very good for both samatha and vipassana. Easy to feel and know non-self. Our monastic community was also so beautiful and kind, supportive, loving and harmonious during this retreat time. Such good energy in their hearts' dedication and practice of the Path, supporting one another. I love to see this. And the gift of the whole time and space was also the gift of all of your loving kindness. The gift of the benevolent, loving, trusting, generous and faithful human heart -- the energy of all of the hearts' intentions gathered together -- that allow this space of purity, and the nobility of humanity to be.
Emerging with loving kindness immersed in the entire world, entering into the streams of cars, traffic, houses, I come for a few hours more to rest at this oasis of humanity known as the Bodhi House. Spreading loving kindness upwards to the skies and outwards, downwards to the depths of the earth, through to the other side, around and out into the universe, I contemplate the mystery that this name and form will soon (perhaps) be on the other side.
The day after Valentines Day, friends have booked Qantas flights for me Down Under. First to Western Australia, where Ayya Sobhana and I will be able to visit the four women from Dhammasara Monastery that we participated in ordaining two and a half years ago. I had thought to return much sooner, but this is the first time that I feel healthy enough to venture international travel again in the last two years. Very glad to be feeling better, and to be going to such a fine and kind place, amidst fellow women monastics, now bhikkhunis. I will also see the dear friend and Dhamma sister who was formerly Anagarika Kemanthie with us, now Samaneri Sister Karunika. And visit the new Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, the quiet and peaceful dwelling of Dhammasara's now retired founding abbot, bhikkhuni Ven Ajahn Vayama. Finally, before flying on to New Zealand, i will transit out via Melbourne's Sanghamittarama(established by our Ayya Sucinta after she left here in 2007) where there will be the chance to catch up with Bhante Jaganatha (who stayed at our hermitage for a month this past autumn) at the Buddhist Society of Victoria and, for the first time, to meet Ayya Upekkha who has been instrumental in founding the new Support Network for Women Renunciates in Malaysia and Singapore. Perhaps this sounds very busy, but is actually planned to be three weeks of much quiet time together with abundant kangaroos, screeching white cockatoos, magpies, ravens and roo ticks in the hot, dry and peaceful eucalyptus (gum tree) forest with the women's monastic community of Dhammasara.
From there ~ bhikkhuni friend and student Ven. Adhimutta has been inviting me for perhaps four years now to visit neighboring New Zealand, her home country. I've also been invited by a recently-formed NZ Bhikkhuni Trust that friend Alison Hoffman has been putting together, the beginnings of a support foundation for Theravada women monastics in this land. I've never been to New Zealand before, but heard lots of it from my parents who had recently returned from there when I was born. The cleanness, unpopulatedness and wild unclutteredness speak freshness and freedom to this heart. I find joy and delight in the relaxedness and unpretentiousness of the people and the untamedness of the land. Having a string of -nesses, it seems that happiness should have a place here as well.
In New Zealand i will visit various places and people in the beginning and end -- including Ajahn Chandako at Vimutti Forest Monastery -- and in the midst have been invited for one month of writing retreat time at a retreat home in Raurimu. For years now I have been hoping to have some time to do further work with Vinaya for our developing Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha. This time has been offered to focus on this now, fully supported, for which i am amazed and very grateful. What a blessing! It seems like an excellent opportunity, and a possibility to share much benefit for our monastic community, the benefit for whom will then be freely shared greatly and broadly with our world. Also, i've been told that Raurimu is a place of natural wonder, with an abundance of ancient volcanic mountains and hiking trails.
Perhaps now, a bit stronger, I may be able to spend some time in these mountains in hiking meditation as well, as I spent much time on the trails and cliffs of the mountain that towers above our hermitage during this past retreat time and have got a bit of my trail-walking legs back. I will bring my very well-used hiking poles together with the hiking boots that friends have gifted to me with loving kindness.
Imagining this heart of joy, love, kindness, peacefulness and happy goodwill to all living beings, spreading through this area again and touching on these lands and beings unknown. Imagining this together with old friends, and people known for years but never met before...to be met in this time. How love is a brightness in the body and the mind. Like the warmth of twinkling golden white Christmas tree lights in the quiet of Christmas Eve, surrounded by signs of generosity and kindness, so the light of loving intuitive imagination in the body-mind. Or, perhaps better said -- like the heart of loving-kindness to the whole world on the Eve of Valentine's Day.
to the whole world,
and to every world,
all living beings,
all that have ever lived,
our shared breath,
our shared hearts,
this heart of love.
May all be well, happy and peaceful.
May the path rise to meet you,
kiss your feet and embrace you,
then pull you into that Dhamma stream,
from which there is no return.
such gladness and joy,
the freedom of release.