A dust of rose blue floated off Taos Mountain. It was hard to see the stars for the full light of the moon. I slushed along in $16.99 calf-high boots I purchased from Walmart after I arrived in Taos. The gray-haired woman bustling around the shoe department seemed harried in her dark blue smock. She wasn’t happy to be working. I resisted the urge to swoop her away. New Mexico in December. I was grateful to be in Taos.
The writing retreat was everything I imagined. Even more. The “more” part is important. Because sitting in silence means making more room. More space to receive. Writing rises out of silence.
I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and got up every morning for meditation. My routine went something like this:
wake up five minutes before alarm goes off, turn the black switch on the Westclox travel alarm to off, plant two feet firmly on the floor, peek out the window to see if the morning light is hitting Taos Mountain, turn on the wobbly brass table lamp beside the twin bed, head to the high ceilinged bathroom, rub the sleep out of my puffy eyes, flush the toilet, stand up, walk to the carved oak dresser and gather my clothes for the day: a pair of Jockey For Her underwear, Hanes cotton bra, a pair of SmartWool socks (made from New Zealand’s specially bred Merino sheep), baggy flannel pants with loose waist, and a long-sleeved cotton T-shirt from Target washed 1000 times.
The shower was one of my favorite parts of the day. I could feel the water hit every cell of my body. The last dark morning of the retreat, I looked up through the slit of window below the adobe ceiling and saw the full moon high and shining between blowing branches of cedar spread low and wide along the outside wall.
I showered by moonlight.
Moisture is what I crave when I go to New Mexico. Water – inside and out. The 7000 foot altitude gives me headaches and dehydrates my body. Or maybe it’s the Taos Hum. I took a long shower every morning. Then I brushed my teeth, slapped Crew Fiber in my hair, dressed, donned a corduroy jacket and Liz’s “Itasca State Park – Mississippi Headwaters” sweatshirt (that smelled like her), and crunched over the frosty ice, across the gravel parking lot, up the wooden stairs, by the black and white sign tacked to a post that said Silent Retreat In Progress, past the Mother Ditch and the giant cottonwood with seven heads, and over to Mabel’s log cabin.
At 7:30, the meditation guide for the morning would say, “Sitting.” And I’d sit for 30 minutes before breakfast. Some days it seemed like 10 hours. Other mornings, I was disappointed when the bell rang – three taps on the rim to start meditation, one to leave the Zendo. Then breakfast.
Breakfast at Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Don’t get me started.
I’d have a large helping of Jane’s scrambled eggs, 3 pieces of sausage (the bacon is too crispy and overdone for me), 2 tablespoons of sweet applesauce to balance the salty meat, 5 to 8 quarter cuts of honeydew melon, fresh strawberries, a 16 ounce glass of whole milk, a juice glass of OJ, and a medium cup of coffee with half and half.
If there was a special Southwestern breakfast dish, I would add a taste of it to the plate, picking out the bits and slices of mushroom. I love the flavor but hate the rubbery texture. Otherwise, I stuck to my purist routine of scrambled eggs.
After breakfast, I’d slow walk to my room, staring at Taos Mountain against the clearest cerulean sky, unlock the two latches to enter Door 6, use the bathroom, tidy up, floss and brush my teeth, and get ready for the 9:30 sit, walk, write and the dharma talk that followed.
That was my morning routine from Monday to Friday, December 4th to 8th, 2006.
Heaven. It felt like heaven. But Buddhists don’t believe in heaven. There is only practice. Anchoring the mind to breath, tip of tongue, soles of feet, sound, hands.
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006
-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – TAOS