The Next Buddha is Sangha

There is a rock wall that decorates the front yard at Insight Meditation Center. One morning, I decided to go sit there under the sun and sip on my tea. It’s a great spot to warm up, as mornings in Barre, MA can be quite chilly even in the midst of summer. After sitting there for a few minutes, I started noticing these bees flying around me. At first, fear set in. “Ahhh, bees! I hope they don’t sting me!” I thought. But they would fly around me, aware of my presence, and would leave me alone. They were doing, what seemed like to me at first glance, this chaotic little dance. They would fly around the rock wall in these circle patterns, and then fly into one of the cracks in the rock wall. At first I was like, “what are these crazy little bees doing?” Their little dance became my entertainment.

After watching them come and go in this way for some time, I finally realized what they were doing. Just as yogis we perform our yogi jobs to contribute to the interdependence of the retreat community, these bees were performing their “bee jobs” and contributing to their bee community inside the rock wall. They would fly off to some flowers that were nearby, gather whatever they were gathering, and would fly back to the crack in the rock wall, all the while doing their funky little dance. I was SOOO amazed by this process, I continued to watch them for a little while longer. I had never seen bees in action like this, or at least never felt so intrigued by them as I did at that moment.

I had many moments like this while on retreat. Mindfulness has this curious and present quality about it. I just became interested by what was presenting itself in the moment, and thankfully experienced many moments that were very sweet and joyful. When you’re in silence for an extended period of time, you begin to find beauty and joy in the most simple things. All of these delightful moments of mindfulness were particularly significant for me. You see, I’ve been asleep for most of my life. As a teenager and young adult, I’ve walked through life in a haze of numbness. Life has gotten so cloudy, so much so, that I can’t remember certain periods of my life. This isn’t cause for alarm, but it’s so incredibly sad. It has been my way of coping with the difficulties of my life; broken family relationships, fear, abuse, drama, etc. I checked out to survive. We all do this on some level to cope with the trials and tribulations life throws at us, but at some point you realize you can’t go on living in a haze anymore. The wonderful thing about my retreat experience and cultivating mindfulness, is that I can touch upon having lived in trance with compassion, kindness, and without judgement. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, I get it.” I could sense wise understanding begin to arise. It’s a beautiful transformation.

When I was a teenager, I remember thinking on multiple occasions that I wanted to feel what it was like to experience the simple, but profound joy of gazing at a flower. I wanted to FEEL it! REALLY FEEL IT in my bones and at my core. But I couldn’t then. I was too deep in this haze of numbness and depression. My heart was closed. So to be able now to experience the joy of watching bees do their crazy little dance and being really intrigued by it, is HUGE. I can feel myself starting to open, like a flower in bloom. I have so much gratitude for my first retreat experience. Don’t underestimate the power of silence, solitude and, of course, mindfulness. May all beings wake up from their hazes of numbness, and may they experience the beauty of being alive.