On Winter Solstice half a year ago, I embarked on a solo retreat that lasted until Spring Equinox. Away from the family so much when I work, I chose to spend those three months at home, open to visits with grandchildren and occasional walks with friends. No phone, no email--that was easy. It was more challenging to be both retreatant and retreat director, but I set a routine and loved the generous, alternating spells of meditation and study. Loved the amplitude of the silence and the cessation of hurry. The weekends, though, were often hard and afflicted with doubt.
I rejected the thought of a news fast, and tuned into Amy Goodman a couple of days a week, more often as Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings unfolded in January. In March when Fukushima Daiichi blew, I'd go online to catch the latest report.
The exploration I undertook was into Deep Time. My fascination with immensities of time, past and future, is linked to the radioactive contamination produced by nuclear weapons and power production--to what I imagine future generations will call the "poison fire." I can't get its immeasurable longevity out of my mind, or the need to tell the future ones what it is and how to protect themselves from it. So Deep Time has haunted me for decades. It has become a staple of the Work That Reconnects, inspiring the invention of interactive processes that are powerfully moving. Deep Time is a defining feature of the Nuclear Guardianship concept and Ethic, the focus of chapters in World as Lover, World as Self, and the theme of courses taught with Sean Kelly at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Now I wanted to give myself to it more fully.
My sitting and walking practice was largely but not exclusively vipassana (Theravadin Buddhist insight meditation). My reading ranged from French phenomenology to radiation physics to Zen master Dogen. With Dogen's remarkable writings on time, the interexistence of past, present and future became almost palpable, a capacity of mind and body opened by rapt and grateful intention. The Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha, known in Japan as Jizo, had been familiar to me, but on my retreat he/she (an androgynous figure) suddenly appeared as an embodiment of, and conduit to, the future beings. This has brought me great benefit and gladness.
I am not in a hurry to write down what I learned on my retreat, but it has been good to share reflections at the workshops and classes lined up for the spring months, including weeks at Naropa University, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and a ten-day intensive in Guelph, Ontario. The engagement from which I just returned was for the Rocky Flats Guardianship Project in Boulder, Colorado. Rocky Flats is a dismantled bomb factory where, for 37 years, the plutonium pits or triggers for every US nuclear warhead were made. From numerous accidents as well as illegal burning and dumping, its vast area at the foothills of the Rockies is highly contaminated with plutonium, the most lethal substance on Earth.Yet the Department of Energy has given the land to the Department of Interior to be opened to the public as a wildlife refuge and recreation area. Some local citizens see this as a travesty, and as a call to nuclear guardianship to block these plans and keep the area off-limits.
Despite the considerable duplicity and frustration they've encountered, this handful of men and women are determined. They love the guardianship concept and believe it can rally people to act with conscience for the sake of present and future generations. I came last week to give the fourteenth and last of a series of public talks, and a day-and-a-half workshop on making guardianship a reality. Having rarely led the Work That Reconnects for such an immediate, urgent, and specific task, I was unsure of how ready the two dozen participants would be to engage in the early stages of the work before getting "practical." I even wondered about taking the space for doing Deep Time work (the double circle with the seventh generation) before getting on with plans. But it was worth it 200%. Everyone moved with such vigor into strategizing goals, roles, and next steps, their efficiency was dazzling. Not only are specific plans circulating and follow-up meetings in process, there's also such pleasure in working together.
Love from Joanna
And in closing, four quotes and a sonnet:
"Time is not an object of our knowledge, but a dimension of our being." - Maurice Merleau-Ponty
"If we are in fact destined to make contact with a sort of eternity, it will be at the core of our experience of time." - Maurice Merleau-Ponty
"The point of time for bodhisattvas is to enter into and inhabit time, in all its temporal aspects, and not to escape into some timeless state." - Taigen Dan Leighton
"See each thing in this entire world as a moment of time….The time-being is all the time there is… Each moment is all being, is the entire world." - Eihei Dogen
And from Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus:
Does time, as it passes, really destroy?
It may rip the fortress from its rock;
But can this heart, that belongs to God,
be torn from Him by circumstance?
Are we as fearfully fragile
as Fate would have us believe?
Can we ever be severed
from childhood's deep promise?
Ah, the knowledge of impermanence
that haunts our days
is their very fragrance.
We in our striving think we should last forever,
but could we be used by the Divine
if we were not ephemeral?
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnet to Orpheus II. 27