Saturday, February 25, 2006

Where did THAT come from??

I'm afraid the stories are piling up faster than I can write about them. Do I write about my first "journalism" experiment with the family of the blind man? Or about the angry swarm of bees terrorizing the village like a Hitchcock movie? Maybe about the dreadlocked holy man who will fit you with dentures while squatting on the side of the road? Next time; today I'll write about me.
 
I developed a nasty cough on retreat, of the huge-hacking variety, which meant that I was sleeping up to 15 hours a day and missing great chunks of the teachings and meditations. (I thought I might be missing great chunks of my lungs, too, but I'll stop there, one sentence too late.) It may have been my delirium, but one night I woke up and had no idea where I was. That's not that uncommon for me - it happens maybe once a year or so, and takes me a minute to figure out. But this night, not only did I not know where I was, I didn't know WHO I was. I was convinced, somehow, that I had woken up in the wrong body, and felt like I didn't have any identity. It was confusing, and I felt a bit like my real self was around somewhere, but I wasn't in it. I couldn't understand how it had happened, but realized that whether or not I knew who I was, I had to pee. I started to get out of bed, and BING! - I was back in my body. Apparently these kinds of experiences have happened to people without the BING! bringing them back, and it can be terrifying. For me the great relief was going to the toilet.
 
The main teacher of the retreat is English and a former monk in Thailand named Christopher Titmuss. He's been teaching the retreat annually for over 30 years. During the retreat he asked me if I was interested in leading discussion groups in Sarnath, where most of the people would head after the formal retreat finished. Yes, why not, I said. When I got to Sarnath, the managers there referred to me as a teacher. I said, no I'm just leading some groups. During the initial meeting welcoming everyone to the Sarnath program, I was sitting in a chair waiting for the teachers to go up on stage. The other main teacher, Jaya, came by and whispered "you need to go up there with the teachers when we go." I said, "I'm not going up there!" And she said, basically, "Oh, yes you are!"
 
Sure enough, Christopher got up to go on the platform up front, along with the others, and he motioned me to go up, too. Guess what - I'm a teacher.
 
I'm sitting up there cross-legged, pretending like I know what the hell's going on, but murmuring to myself, "they don't know that I'm not supposed to be here!" It felt just like my first business meeting around a conference table - feeling a bit like an impostor and hoping not to be found out. Later a list of the teachers turns up on the board, with biographies and photos - including mine. 
 
Here's my biography, for your entertainment. I wrote it last year for another project:
Dave Adair was first introduced to Buddhism while on a two-year trip around the world. Intensely ignorant of all things spiritual, he attended a 10-day retreat in Dharamsala, India, where, he was sure, he didn?t learn a thing. It did open the door, however, to a world outside of his experience. That door came flying open three years later, in 1995, when Dave attended Christopher?s annual retreat in Bodhgaya. After resisting every aspect of the teachings, light finally dawned. Since that time, Dave has attended several of Christopher?s retreats, both in Bodhgaya and in California, and is a big fan of the Sarnath program in Sarnath, India, and the Dharma Yatras in France. Practice for Dave comes more from reflection and integration in daily life than in formal meditation. His favorite book, which offers endless inspiration, is ?I Am That? by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
As it turned out, I liked almost all of the teaching role. I did a lot of individual interviews, and ran a number of discussion groups, with topics like "What stops up from being in our heart?" and "Where is the self to be found?" I was a little nervous, but not very, and got a lot of positive feedback from people.
 
At the end of the program I heard myself say this to the whole group: "When we meet someone, we should prostrate at their feet with the realization that the light of God shines in each of us." Where in the HELL did that come from? People who've known me for a long time will vouch for this - I did not used to talk this way! I remember the first time, not long ago, that I used the word "heart" in an e-mail, and that scared the crap out of me. Maybe I did switch with someone that night on retreat. I want my old me back! Not really - I like my new me. I'm keeping it...
 
Blah, blah, blah - enough of that. I'm a little uncomfortable talking about myself. How about some photos?? (There are 7 photos below here.)
 
Too much love,
Dave
 
A child from the village of Bodhgaya:
 
A bicycle rickshaw driver with beautiful eyes:
 
A gathering of Tibetan monks:
 
A man reading a traditional book in Tibetan:
 
A young monk with an angelic face:
 
An old Indian Buddhist monk who was uncomfortable looking at me.
 
An old Bhutanese pilgrim (you can tell by the short hair):
 
(The End)

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