When the parking lot at the Nuin Center was packed full, and street parking was at a minimum, I accurately deduced there was an event in the conference room. As I made my way to the front door of the building I saw a sign directing people to The Living Peace Retreat, taught by Darma Teacher Chan Huy.
After saying my Good Mornings to co-workers standing around the front desk, I walked to the kitchen to deposit my egg salad into the frig. As I passed the conference room I noticed the participants shoes lined neatly against the walls of the hallway. They were all sizes and degrees of wear, but they were, mostly, comfy looking shoes. I saw no stilettos. I also noticed an alter was set up in the middle of the room. Brown robed monks sat quietly on the floor. Participants were also sitting quietly; some on chairs, others in lotus positions on the floor.
I know all this because the two sets of double doors were wide open. Typically, workshop leaders holding events in the conference room shut the doors. They post “Be Quiet” signs outside of the room letting non participants know they don’t want to be disturbed. The open doors piqued my curiousity. Hmmm, I wondered, “Why?”
I decided to answer my own question. I made up the story that leaving the doors open was purposeful. I concluded it was to teach that we can’t close the world out, but that we must not allow the distractions of the world to interrupt our mindfulness. So as I rubber necked my way past the room, headed to the bathroom, I assumed I was helping teach their point. My distracting presence gave them the opportunity to practice this lesson. Some looked up. Others did not.
Life is full of distraction. It is what you do with them that matters, I assumed…
On yet another trip past the sacred space, to retrieve my lunch, I noticed the group was eating their lunch in silence. I imagined myself sitting with them, eating in silence, chewing slowly, mindfully, tasting my food. I was thoroughly enjoying my fantasy until, in it, I forgetfully asked someone to please pass the salt. I immediately felt mortified with myself, even in my imagined scenario. I auto-corrected by concluding that my imagined table mates smiled warmly and silently handed me the salt.
Mistakes are a part of life. It is what you do with them that matters, I supposed…
I began to notice, midday, that I felt peaceful, that my movements were slower, that I had more grace in my body. Just being in the presence of such peaceful monks and the space they created had calmed me. I noticed a frame that had been hung above the registration table, It said, This is it.
I exhaled, feeling instantly relieved. What if this is it? And, what if that is okay? I felt my hold on the future relax. My low grade tension of planning how-to-get-it-all-done eased.
On my last trip to the conference area for the day, to make my afternoon tea, I noticed one of the brown robed monks wearing wooden beads around his neck, sitting outside of the conference room. He was very engaged in texting or surfing the web on his cell phone. He didn’t look up, he wasn’t distracted by me. I wanted to laugh out loud as I watched his small, tedious movements, getting his man sized fingers to manipulate the small screen.