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Letter from Pokhara

PAS - When this Zen Master attained enlightenment, the first thing he did...

Long ago it is written that a certain Zen Master had attained enlightenment, the first thing he did was run inside his house and write down the following:

Oh marvelous wonder!

I chop wood! I draw water from the well!

And here I am with Candace for a week of rigorous meditation, yoga and restrictive eating camp with a family of Nepalese literally chopping wood just a few feet outside the main yoga studio. Every posture, every static and dynamic flow done to the steady "thock...thock...thock" of axes and hand tools on roots, trunks and branches (nary a power tool in sight). While I do enjoy chopping wood, I cannot claim to be enlightened for more than a moment or two in that act or any others.

Growing up I remember being captivated by reading about the East, Hinduism, Buddhism, meditation, doing yoga, but now as an adult, surrounded by these things, it mostly felt like work and what was left of the fascination I remembered from my teens and early twenties was quickly sweat out between our very active waking hours of 5:30am to 9:00pm.

Here we were in our beautiful, hilltop retreat and it mostly felt like work and going through the motions (again, literally), not the expected tickling by a smiling Buddha with his spiritual feather for a week. I was feeling withdrawn and was short with Candace while the fasting was exacerbating the short temper.

Yet to the insistence of my teachers and the wonderful staff, I kept with it, responded to the summons of the bell tolling each new meditative exercise, accentuated each yoga posture as best I could. After a week, I did not gloat in drawing water or chopping wood, but I did work through a lot of mental debris and physical stiffness (and if you read Candace's post you know what else) in a peaceful and beautiful hilltop overlooking Pokhara and the lake, and after 3 months on the road, it has been as new an experience as I could have hoped for and feels great.