Down the hall from my dorm room on the way to the bathrooms, there was an empty dorm room whose door was slightly ajar when I first arrived, and each day of the retreat, I noticed that the door was a little more open than it had been previously.
I looked upon this daily scene as a metaphor for my experience – slowly opening to what is.
Day 7 started as an itchy eye morning. I’d slept poorly the night before, and there was a weariness clouding around me that I was noticing – and also an eagerness to rid myself of it. My body and mind were feeling so tense and exhausted. I really yearned for rest – or so I thought.
I had a brief one-on-one meeting with one of the teachers that morning, and afterwards I was planning to join the sitting that was already in progress in the main meditation hall. In order to do this in the least disruptive way possible, I needed to walk through the lower walking hall and come up the back stairs to take my seat in the back of the meditation hall. So, I made my way down the stairs from the lobby area to the lower walking hall, and as I walked across this giant room, with its high ceilings and linoleum floor, I stopped in my tracks and looked around.
Holy shit, I’ve got this whole room to myself!
Suddenly, I was no longer tired. With my favorite wool socks on, I began skating around the linoleum floor like the kids at the beginning of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Back and forth, round and round, spinning and swinging my arms around, smiling widely and wildly, giggling with delight.
FUN! I realized. I’ve been longing for some FUN and laughter and play!
Retreat life is so SERIOUS!
I probably spent a good ten minutes doing this – swishing my feet around this big room, the sounds of the furnace rumbling in the background, reflecting on the hush of the hall full of folks above me who were, well, not doing what I was doing at the moment. I giggled a little more.
I had a BLAST!
Then, I was really tired, again, haha!
I slowed myself and caught my breath, feeling completely energized again, and made my way up to the meditation hall.
Naturally, the fun and excitement of having that whole lower hall to myself for those few minutes faded away, and I found myself again feeling exhausted and weary.
I began to take particular notice of the statue of Quan Yin (pictured above) that lives in the back of the main meditation hall, especially in the evenings when the light in the hall was just so.
Cracked down the middle, ravaged by time and entropy, and still she sits.
By the late evening of this day, even in the midst of so many people so dedicated to their practice, I was feeling very lonely. I didn’t want to eat another meal or have another cup of tea or take another walk in the beautiful woods by myself. I wanted to get back to actively sharing my life and my joy and gratitude! As much as I appreciated (and still do appreciate) the experience I was having on retreat, I was giving in to all my longings for home and non-retreat life.
Just before the last sitting, I was in the upper hall with a few others practicing my walking meditation, and as I approached the wall, I let go of whatever thoughts were troubling me and simply looked at what was in front of me. What I saw was my shadow on the wall, and running down through the center of the shadow was a crack in the paint.
The statue of Quan Yin, cracked and resolute.
This image of me, cracked and resolute.
And then I remembered one of my favorite Leonard Cohen lyrics: There is a crack / a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in.’
And then I thought, I can do this.
A relief washed over me. Every muscle relaxed. Levity returned to take its place alongside my weariness, and I slept better that night than I had since I’d left home.