There’s something profound about Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Perhaps it comes from the students who go there, bringing with them real honesty and a humble willingness to inquire about the things that we’re not normally willing to inquire about. Maybe this willingness to question all that we think we know and look carefully at what is real is what gives this place it’s quiet power.  It’s a place where the greatest type of courage is found – the raw courage of going places within that we spend our whole lives avoiding. Even if I can’t quite put my finger on what makes Spirit Rock Meditation Center such a powerful place, it doesn’t really matter. When I am there, I find that it’s simple to be quiet. It seems natural to linger in the spaciousness between my thoughts.

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of picking up my friend Sean from his five day retreat at Spirit Rock.  I look forward to Sean’s retreats there as much as my own. I like to pick him up, share a meal with him, give him a ride to the airport and live vicariously through his well-earned experiences. Dharma friends are hard to find, especially the ones who understand your heart even when you can’t find the words to articulate yourself clearly.  There aren’t many Buddhist-Yogi-Mormons out there and we’ve got to stick together. A good sangha is hard to find, and I’m always grateful that Sean is a part of mine. I’m sure everyone reading this who has met Sean must feel the same way.

It’s fascinating to greet someone who has been silent for days. As I drive up, it seems a bit inappropriate to be chatty, or shoot the breeze and I always imagine it takes a while to get back into the swing of using verbal language again. But, walking around the grounds with Sean I’m surprised at how easily he finds words for his experiences and blends back into “normal” life again.

After I arrived, we headed off for a walk through the fields toward some trails leading up the hills. As we paused in the shade under some trees, I was startled by a huge 7-foot white Buddha statue which seemed to pop up out of nowhere.  Echo, my over-grown puppy, pulled back, frightened as if she’d seen a Buddha ghost. Sean sat at the base of the statue and coaxed Echo over for a good ‘ol rub on her hind quarters, which she gladly accepted, even if she wasn’t about to take her eyes off of that auspicious statue. I doubt she was the first being to travel the grounds at Spirit Rock who couldn’t keep her eyes off the divine.

We walked through the hills talking about meditation, dharma, our latest adventures in Buddhism and what’s been going on since we last visited, me thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to live vicariously through Sean’s hard-earned meditation epiphanies. As we wandered along the trail, we passed other Buddha statues, tucked into a hill here and another one there. The statues seemed to blend into the surroundings, gently sheltered under a tree, or sitting vulnerably out in the open along the well worn trail. Sean laughed and shared that during his stay  he would walk and admire the trees and the colorful moss, and be surprised by little tiny Buddhas placed on the branches. Just when you get far enough away from one statue to let the mind wander, or for the conversation to veer off of the dharma, then we’d run right into another statue that would bring us back to remembering why we were there.  If the stark beauty of the land, the wandering deer, the hawks flying overhead, the moss on the trees and the peaceful people in walking meditation aren’t enough to keep you in the moment – these little Buddha images will find you, and pull you back into awareness.

As we reached the end of the trail, getting closer to the parking lot, we came across another Buddha.  There was something about this statue. Something that beckoned to the present moment – it was the last Buddha on the trail.

I started taking pictures, fascinated by the offerings left by others who must have felt something profound. Clearly, some people had come prepared. They had left notes, keys, a football…. symbols of release, of love, of moving on. Others had clearly been surprised at what they were experiencing and must have felt what I did. This is the last chance to be here now. And with that call to the present moment brought this unexpected experience of oneness with the divine. I looked up at Sean and he had tears in his eyes. What was it about a simple black statue on a hillside, surrounded by the offerings of other people walking the same path that prompted such a shared response? I wondered, “What offering can I make to the divine, right here and now?” I joined the others who must have felt the same and who left whatever was on our person at the time: a barrette, a button, a feather, a coin, a dog tag.

A traditional definition of zen is: a direct transmission of truth outside of words and scriptures between teacher and student. It’s in this type of teaching that we have experiences of stillness that offers us a glimpse beyond mind, body, or personality. The moment IS the teacher, the guru. It’s when everything impermanent dissolves that we resemble two arrows meeting tip to tip in mid-air. The two arrows meet in perfect synchronicity, cancel each other out, and allow all that is spoken, all effort to formally teach, all that is one generation removed from reality, to fall away. It’s here where we are left with the absorption of the seer, where we realize so clearly who we are, that we are able see right through our selves. Our consciousness is returned to its source.

So, all week as I’ve gone through my busy days, grappling with my ego, wrangling my thoughts, and missing the mark, I’ve been carrying with me the traces of this experience and wondering, “What offering can I leave here, in this moment – to help me remember that I am the source?” I hear the call to universal oneness, of connecting directly with the source and I am inspired to make an offering in some tangible way with my life. Maybe it’s something I prepare and offer during a formal ceremony. Although more often than not, it’s being caught by a surprise wave of tears in an unexpected moment and searching what I have available on me right now, on my person, to give. I’m finding that it’s not so important what is offered, but the act of offering. It’s listening to the call to return to Source, that makes all the difference.