Walked into town yesterday (Santa Fe, NM), 45 minutes each way. From the chilliness of our mountain retreat to the mid-day sunshine of the city. What a shock: tourists everywhere (and this during off-season!); shops and shops (“a girl can’t have too many bags”); Navajo silver jewellery and art (“genuine”), and an assortment of franchise food and coffee outlets. All that in the South-West architectural style so pleasing to the eye; shades of ochre, rounded corners, one-story construction. I didn’t contribute much to the economy: the two postcards I bought I lost along the way.
On the way out of town the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, with scaffolding wrapped in plastic, being readied for the 400th anniversary in 2010. I stay for the 5:15 pm mass on this day before the first Sunday of lent. Beautifully natural light inside, paintings depicting Native people and their Western priests, a children’s choir, a procession of a life-size wooden cross being carried from the main entrance to the main altar, all this in anticipation of Easter. I get in line to receive communion and, as has happened before, the moment I open my hands to for bread and wine, everything around me dissolves. No ego, no me, no “small self.” With tears streaming, I return to my seat and kneel: an intense moment of being “with god.” Language, at least in my vocabulary, fails to describe the experience.
On the walk back to Upaya, a small voice wonders whether I’m in the “wrong religion,” being a Zen student now and a Roman Catholic as a child. Moments later, another voice, clear and wise: No need to make distinction–they’re all one: all holy. Please welcome what is given to you. Be astounded. Bathe in the unknown.
A dream from last night: I’m working in a large garden, rolling up a huge blanket that covers the earth, readying the soil for the new growing season. As I look up, I see a house, my home, with flames erupting from the roof, much like a volcano. Next I’m in the house and I notice three men constructing a rickety structure of chairs and ladders to reach the fire from the inside. There’s no panic, no-one’s in danger. As I turn, a tour group appears behind me, maybe 30 people, gathered around a leader: cameras, fanny packs, running shoes, the lot. They pepper me with questions: Who lives here? Is this your house? Aren’t you worried about your safety? Do you have a partner? Where is she? I turn away, resenting the intrusion. Looking up, the fire continues to burn, flames licking the sky though clay tiles. Then I wake up.
Both experiences, in church and in the dream, occur as I embark on a new leg of this spiritual journey. At 5 this afternoon, 24 of us will gather in the meditation hall to embark on two years of training as Buddhist chaplains. Beyond the words of the program description, much of what lies ahead is unknown. As it is with every journey!