Well, the man has returned, beaming brighter and more relaxed than I've ever seen him. He's also come back having shaved his head and several pounds from his weight during his four months in the heat of Ghuyaloka. Both haircut and being thinner suit him. A group of us collected Jnanasalin with two others from Stansted Airport, where with resounding cheers, garlands and hugs we welcomed them back to this swine flu infested isle. Jnanasalin looked a little weary at the time, weighed down no doubt by his huge rucksack, and the suddenness of the vulgar blasts from samsara that is Stansted Airport. Ah! the mixed blessing that is Stansted Airport - oh lets not get started on that one again!!!
So over the last week and a bit there has been a slow, almost imperceptible re-adjustment for both of us. Jnanasalin, to the manifested world that is Cambridge, and me to his presence being around once again. Its all gone fine. Jnanasalin has been tired a lot of the time, samsara imperceptible drains you of energy you know! Today he's seemed more his usual perky self, so I think he's reached some sort of stasis with his return. He's come back with bundles of ideas, inspiration and projected future plans that will take a few years to fully unfold, as he settles into life in the Western Buddhist Order. Basking in the evident shadow of his four months practice has further rekindled my own desire to take my own level of practice further.
Last weekend we both went to the Combined Order Convention at Wymondham College. This was our first Order event together,which is something we'll need to get used to, and learn how to attend based on being two individuals, who are both Order Members, without adopting a public pretence we aren't a couple for the duration of a retreat etc. Eventually this will become second nature, but for the time being it still has a frisson of novelty and genuine delight to it. One's first Convention can however be a daunting event, it was also my first for what I can only say is too many years to mention. I think we mutually gave support to each other, so we held it all together. After an initial feeling of being totally overwhelmed by it all, I think we both managed to largely enjoy our few days there.
The Order I belong to is going through 'interesting times', of yet another period of self-doubt. This time its an uneasy, and occasionally fractious, debate over the 'unity and diversity' of our practices, and where the natural boundaries of them should be - if any. Sangharakshita, the founder of our Order, recently stepped in, in an attempt to bring some urgently needed clarity and gravitas. His intervention has not been without the additional complications of projection and subsequent reactivities inherent to him being the Order's 'father figure.' Even he cannot set things down it would seem. Restating what his original intentions for the Order were, does at least damp proof the foundations from further corruption. We cannot pretend we didn't know. The Convention was thus largely devoted to exploring a hot hot topic. Whilst I appreciated the need for the debate, this perpetual probing and re-examination of the minutia of the Order, seems overly self-absorbed to me. It became reminiscent of group therapy, but for the entire order. I have to try hard not to find this focus dispiriting. More broadly, in coming together in such large numbers one can also experience the Order en-mass, practicing together, sharing perceptions, and by more deeply unfolding the Dharma we could leave revived, our sraddha freshly inspired? Well, there was some of that this time too, but hedged round with a polite nervous harmony. As we have not yet found an effective way to calm unsettled seas, I think this one has some way to run yet.
This was my first week picking orders in the warehouse, and helping in the kitchen two mornings a week. My feet have gradually become accustomed to walking most of the day in heavy sweat inducing boots. My back has largely held up, though it was beginning to twinge by Friday afternoon. As my bodily stamina increases over the next few weeks, we'll see how this goes. My back exercise regime is proving essential in maintaining a healthy level of support. I know the troubled area hasn't gone away, but it's not nagging at my psyche all the time, as yet. So not a bad start, and I'm quite enjoying the pace and rhythm of the work. This week has also been one of the most humid of the summer, which itself can have an energy draining effect all its own. So I have felt weary, and I've found myself quiet and withdrawn a bit during the evening, which is my usual pattern when I'm tired. Again I expect this will change as I adjust to the physical demands of the work.