We Vow to Realize Its True Meaning

The following is an excerpt from Joshin on the Street Retreat he did in Albuquerque.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is just a gentle reminder to all of you to practice good self care in these days of transition out of street retreat and back into the realities of your daily lives at Upaya and elsewhere.

I think we all experienced that plunging into homelessness can be very powerful and surprising – I know this retreat in particular was, for me, very intense, intimate, and heart-opening. Processing and integrating it will take time. I suspect that we will share in common some emotional states and thoughts, and yet each of us will also have our own unique way as we work toward making sense of what we experienced and what it all means for our practice going forward. Like toothpaste that comes out of the tube and can never be put back in, these experiences can sometimes radically shift our view and our sense of the world we live in.

You may notice that things pop up at unexpected times. Yesterday one resident shared that eating good bread and our abundance of organic peanut butter brought up interesting feelings related to privilege as well as odd and difficult emotions related to those we encountered so intimately and then, despite our full disclosure to them about our short-term experience of homelessness, left behind to return to our lives here. Another resident felt like she was wandering around with her long list of high-priority things to get done, and yet few of them seemed terribly interesting or important to her now in the context of what we saw on the streets. For myself, I was close to tears all day long. Everything I looked at seemed to be an opportunity for gratitude as well as sorrow for the injustices of our world. The words, facial expressions and body language of the countless people we encountered, and those who joined our councils—Bird, Archie, Raj, and the woman in Triangle Park—continue to reverberate in my own body, heart, and mind.

Maybe you are experiencing some of the same. These are natural emotions, and for some they can be a little disorienting. We attempt to integrate this into our practice of not-knowing, bearing witness, and loving action. It is all part of the rich, multi-faceted experience of plunge practice. It teaches us about the ways of the human heart and reflects the reality of Indra’s Net.

So, please take care of yourselves as you re-integrate – practice loving kindness and curiosity toward your own emotional states, talk with one another if you are struggling, and keep an eye out for others in our resident community who might be struggling. Don’t be afraid to offer a loving shoulder to lean on if needed, and be gentle with yourselves and one another. And most important – waste nothing…the teacher of your own experience is actively teaching you through this. I really believe this, and I trust it. I invite you to trust it as well.

Exercise and good nutrition are important as you re-integrate, as well as rest and engaging in beautiful things like music, art, dancing, poetry, hiking, gardening, and so on. Please remember that the world is big and includes the heartbreaking realities that we saw in Albuquerque as well as the incredible beauty that we humans are also capable of creating. Our practice is to continue to bear witness to ALL of it – the whole enchilada, nothing left out. Remember that we simultaneously laughed and cried; we found joy and heartbreak standing side by side and folded into each other. No separation. All of it is in the boundless field. As we say, the dharma is vast and subtle. We now have a chance to practice it. We vow to realize its full meaning.

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