Monday, June 24, 2013

Womens' retreat at Kodoji and talk at Bluegum

Every year the Sydney zen women hold a special kind of retreat. It’s a spontaneous organic kind of thing, a bit like bread rising in a warm place. By spontaneous I do not mean haphazard - a baker knows that you need flour, yeast, sugar to make bread, and a baker knows about the mix, the kneading and the rising , the punching down before the dough goes into a hot oven. Skill and care and wisdom are essential for making a loaf or an enriching weekend. And anyone who thinks that zen is a harsh unkind discipline  doesn’t quite get that love is there too:

When? when? I said
But the one I waited for
has come at last.
Seeing her now,
what more could I ask?

 Ryokan, zen monk and poet 

We had a wonderful time at Kodoji /Gorrick’s Run, with great food, great company and warm autumn weather. Janet Selby showed us how to make pinch pots, coaching us continually to shy away from thoughts of product - keeping us focussed on the process of handling clay, making us aware of its provenance as cliffs of granite - which slipped grain by grain into a valley in Victoria, where it clumped together as a white fine-grained clay. 
We made a Kuan Yin - Avalokiteshvara, Kannon, Tara are the other names of this deity. She is the Goddess of Compassion and listens to the sounds of the world.

I took everybody for a walk in the valley where Gorrick used to run his stock. I took them across the paddock - and to the creek. 

Sally wrote this superb poem about the walk:


One Autumn Day we all went walking

Sun and shadow, damp and dry,
the bush exhaling songs and scents,
its warming air. Bracken’s branches
 holding dew that
holds the sun in every drop.
The trees, the bushes, us, all breathing;
grasses, we, absorb all breaths.
Curling up the grey dead trunk, the creeper
vivid in its greenness,
 and from the leafy mulch, green seedlings,
 green green moss still damp.
 Strange footprints in the sand
by the cold creek. We add our own.
Blue sky in its still waters.
What’s up ? What’s down?
The creek may say as it sings along,
bubbling, chuckling, but do we know?
The wombats do. By their dark holes, their excavations,
 their river crossings, their poo says ,”OURS”,
there’s no mistake. Wet rocks, red fungus,
yellow  toadstools, ferns, creepers, dripping trees.
 Maidenhair in shady places.
And on the paddock, butterflies.
 “GOLD! GOLD!” The  chestnut’s song,
by the grey dead tree, the rotting root.
Smoke rising from the cottage fire,
 the mountains darkening,
us walking with country together.

 Sally Hopkins

This is a picture of Sally, with Weenie the rescued cockatiel atop her beanie - Aitken Roshi (behind) seems to find the “two birds” rather amusing!

I asked everyone to write a ‘flow’, this is a little of mine:

“.....bright shards of sunlight next to the floodwrack, sun kissing creek, creek kissing sand, sand grains shining. Nothing missing. ” 

And wrote:

Bubblygurgle -
my grey-haired friends
observe the creek

Britta brought to the retreat her knowledge of yoga, and of shiatsu. We luxuriated after the walk, in the deep relaxation of shiatsu given by a partner who was following Britta’s insructions. It was far too relaxing to be bothered taking photographs!

The next day Gail McCall showed us how to make a silk scarf beautiful, with natural dyes.

This is a watercolour by Janet Selby. It shows the gate at Kodoji - how many people have gone through it now? and experienced the deep peace of the valley? 


I am giving a talk at Bluegum sangha in North Sydney on Tuesday 30th July at 7 pm. My talk is entitled “Walking the World as Self: the wisdom in your feet”. Everyone is welcome! I’ll post the address of Bluegum’s meeting place soon.


I’m leading the yatras on the 12th and 13th October. The Elders will walk into the wild world on the Sunday, 13th, and those of ordinary fitness and capability, on the 12th. This year the yatras will be part of the Blue Mountains Festival of Walking.