34th Annual Joshua Tree Retreat
“I sit serene in the midst of all things”
Songs of the Nuns
There are only two things:
you sit and you sweep the garden.
We sit together, 160 of us amidst the vast landscape of the Joshua Tree desert. I am grateful to have come to this desert for 34 years and to wander among cactus and creosote bushes, craggy red rocks and sunning lizards. Today’s afternoon golden sunlight illuminates barrel cactus, yucca, rabbits, antelope squirrel and distant snow capped San Jacinto Mountains dazzling above the desert floor. Four foot high spiky wild Cholla cactus hold woven nests for cactus wrens, baby birds held safe from all predators. And meditators sit quietly on their zafu nests held safe in the arms of the dharma.
One year the owls made a nest just outside the meditation hall and practitioners looked up to see fluffy chicks waiting for food as they did their slow walking practice. Another year a desert tortoise walked into the meditation hall to visit. Hot days, cool nights, windstorms, occasional hail and some years spring carpets of flowers. At night coyotes howl and owls “whoo” from the tallest pine trees.
The desert can also be harsh as are some of our restless and painful meditations. Certain days have scorching heat and in the twilight coyotes devour mice and rabbits. And we sit in the midst of it all, with our anxiety and loneliness and the endless thoughtstream of modern life and our concerns for the world and the joy and gratitude that open as our minds quiet and our heart is available to love.
We sit in this marvelous desert not to run from the world but to reconnect to ourselves and to the earth, to bring a loving awareness and a caring heart to it all. You can see this renewal happening already, eyes becoming clear, faces more serene and younger (we call it the vipassana face lift), and a steady presence.
Renewed, restored, refreshed, meditators will return to sweep and tend the garden of the world, bringing with them a quieter mind and a wiser more caring heart. You too can make a place to sit amidst the winds of life, to become restored and refreshed, to bring a caring heart to the world. We will be sitting with you.