It feels right to be back. 8 pm and we’re seated in the meditation hall. Rows of black cushions. Windows open towards meadow and woods, the scent of hay, evening air replacing afternoon heat. Silence descends. Three strikes on the gong. Meditation.
All so familiar, yet fresh and refreshing in the moment. There’s something about sitting in a place where many have done the same for the last nine years, day in and day out. Incense lightly in the air. Stone Buddha sits upright. A solitary candle. By 10 o’clock the front doors are locked and lights dimmed: Noble Silence begins.
This custom of breaking-fast goes back to Christian monasteries in medieval times, when silence also lasted from evening prayer till the morning chant of “Lord, open my lips to proclaim your glory.” We don’t use those words, but the sentiments are similar. The wake-up bell will ring at 4:20 (an hour later because we’re hosting a retreat), introducing 90 minutes of mediation, morning chanting, and 45 minutes of temple cleaning, including toilets (always a favourite), walkways, trash, laundry, kitchen chores, and assorted other tasks.
I cherish communal silence made by 25 people not talking. Time to shut down the laptop and enter my own silence, away from chattering. Forgive me for not editing these notes. May you be at ease.