It was January 10, or January 11, of a new year. A new year that we hope will bring change after an incredibly challenging 2020. Some of us woke up in the middle of the night to join the call. Some of us took time off work to focus on the retreat. Some decided to join if, even when they are visually impaired and can barely see the screen. 90 of us logged on the zoom for the opening call, nervous, not sure what to expect. We looked around the smiling faces in tiny boxes from 6 different continents.
We were attracted to this pod for many different reasons. To emerge from a dark time, stronger, wiser, and kinder. To find out that we are not alone in our struggles, doubt, and fear. And we are eager to learn from the wisdom of the Buddha, the Sangha, and each other.
Brian told us the story of the three little pigs, and the house they chose to build for themselves when their mother asked them to leave. It was so funny I couldn’t stop laughing. The question he posed to us was; Do we want to live in houses built with greed or anger, and end up as fried bacon falling from the sky?
And if we want to be the little pig that chose to build his house on loving-kindness, how do we get started? Jin-Wei Shi, his face radiating with loving-kindness that I can feel through the screen, shared that his metta trigger is his grandma. She always gave him love and unconditioned care, and he uses that as the kindle to the metta fire.
And off we go.
Day 1, Tuning in to Metta, when we tried to take love for granted for the day and meditated on metta. The result? We gave our inner critic a well-deserved vacation, and we found joy in little things in life. It was as if we put on a pair of love-glasses and it was slightly easier to relax, forgive, and be grateful.
Day 2, Metta IN the body. We started to feel more challenged. We felt the tension in our body that we normally ignored. The shoulder, the stomach, the face; when we thought about work, relationship issues, past traumas, news, or the reality that we cannot complete the pod assignment on time. Some of the self-critics barged back into our mind from their vacation. But it was so good to see and feel the care, and unconditional love from everyone on the zoom call. It was a powerful reminder that we are not alone in this journey. We all felt something was shifting in our way of being, even when we couldn't articulate it.
Day 3. Pitfalls in Metta. Wow this is a hard one, teasing out the attachments in our love. Our collective heart was broken open, with stories of cancer diagnosis of a loved one, death of a father, abandonment at birth, abuses, divorces, break-ups, difficulties at work, and a sense of alienation of being in a new country, all alone. And with every shared story of a heart broken open, our collective heart becomes brighter, lighter, and more at ease. We are in a safe space. We are welcomed, loved, embraced, flaws and all, and we don’t need to earn it.
Everything is ok.
Day 4: Karuna or Compassion Fatigue. We were surprised to find out that we can listen without an agenda when we keep compassion top of mind. We caught the thoughts of our biases, our irritation, our want, our defense mechanism, our judgmentalism, and our need to “help” another earlier than we would have been. We learned that sometimes, all we need is to give space for the other person to feel heard and seen, and with that, wisdom and creativity arises.
Day 5: Mudita: Joy of Missing Out :) Phew. This prompt was so much easier!! Finally, we took a breather and looked around. The joy in children’s faces under the sunlight, connecting with long-lost friends, and the triumph of overcoming jealousy or guilt and being able to rejoice with others. Beauty and joy is everywhere, in the small things of life, if we bother to look for it. The joy was amplified and reverberated during the zoom calls -- even when we got to know Jin-Wei Shi broke his fingers that very morning.
Day 6: Upekkha - Boundaries of Boundless Balance. We all see our attachments - to our body, our opinion, our relationships. We all acknowledged with gratitude; the difficulty, and the necessity, of letting those attachments and expectations go. Easier said than done, especially if we don’t want to fall into the trap of indifference.
Day 7: Closing Call. We finally have a chance to just sit down and look back at the week. So much has changed. Our perspective has shifted. Our hearts are more open to the beauty and imperfection of everyday life. We felt like we had made a group of noble friends that will be there and catch us when we fall when we continue on this path. We learned so much about each other, and we have never meet each other. Isn’t it interesting? Am I the same person as 7 days ago? We will all have different answers, but what we know in our hearts, is that we have grown from strangers to a community in this sacred space.
We logged on the zoom call, and looked at the same boxes of faces. More relaxed, more radiant than we remembered. We were transported to a pure, calm, and timeless place by the performance of Gandhi’s favorite prayer by Dinesh. We were moved to tears by Yu Chen’s poem to her parents. We delved into our flowers, thorns, and buds in the breakout group. At the grand finale, Rev. Heng Sure led us to sing together with his banjo, and gave us words of encouragement to keep going on our journey.
And then there was the surprise. As we looked through the beautiful video that captured the life motto we submitted, it dawned on us, how far we have come along in just 7 days.
There is a still a long way to go, but now we know we have each other.
If you'd like to join a similar circle, please explore upcoming pods.