I spent the weekend at a meditation/study retreat in the city on the topic of Dogen’s Radiant Light – though I didn’t feel radiant or light, bogged down with a cold as I was. In fact, I was *that* person in the zendo. The sniffling, sneezing one. The one that everyone is secretly hating because what if she’s still contagious? But there you go. It was bound to happen at some point in my spiritual life that I would be the thorn in the side of my sangha. I’m sure it will happen more than once in this life of mine.
For the record, I was on the other side of my symptoms, as bad as they sounded – so I had pretty good reason to believe I wasn’t contagious. It’s just hard to convince others of that when you still sound congested.
I had wanted to go to this retreat specifically because my word of the year is “Radiant” and it seemed somehow essential that I engage in some study of the related zen text. A big takeaway from the reading for me had to do with the intimacy we must bring to our practice in order to realize the “light” of all things including ourselves.
“Make sure to endeavor in the practice of the buddha way. Those who practice should not be alienated or distant. Even so, there have been few practitioners of the way who have mastered this radiant light.”
This clearly holds true for more than Zen practice – only by practicing intimacy in relation to the world can we fully know it, and ourselves fully in return.
Though this wasn’t my intention when I chose the word Radiant, I see how anchoring my actions in such an intention has propelled me into greater intimacy. With the goal of putting myself out there (extending in all directions) I have: started a newsletter featuring personal essays, accepted the help of a friend in editing my writing, signed up for monthly “follow through” workshops supporting my creative practice, gotten to know a textile artist I admire, asked my zen teacher for a specific program of study, and offered myself more freely to my family in a time of need than I might have otherwise. Even the act of daily yoga (since January 1st) is a form of engagement with the body that demands intimacy with the self. Each of these things has required that I acknowledge my feelings and fear of rejection – and expose them to others.
It’s been unexpected, a bit freaky – and a lot energizing. So I’m going to stick with it. Coming out of this weekend though, I’m going to meditate a bit more on this intimacy and the light that comes forth from it – and hope it further informs the work I’m putting out in the world in 2019.