Weekly photo challenge: Delicate


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A delicate balance of stones – at a Buddhist meditation retreat center in rural New England (Image by LIz Cameron)

Yes, this is my Weekly Photo Challenge entry for “Delicate,” and yes, I am entering a photo of a stone wallKaragöz scoffs at the notion of a stone wall as delicate…but reconsiders.  Let me tell you the story of how he came to reconsider.

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This past weekend, I went to my first Buddhist meditation retreat – the retreat was named “Patience: Emptying the Ocean with a Teacup.”

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Meditation Hall at Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (Image by LIz Cameron)

And let me tell you, the Karagöz puppets in my head were anything but patient from the week before I went – to the time our car entered the long driveway through wintry woods.  You can read about that here.

Yet, as soon as we reached the Center, the the Karagöz puppets, well, they really started to get quiet. And I was surprised about that. Even Karagöz himself, with all of his oppositional, defiant and jokester ways, he had inhaled a dose of silence before I even started meditating.  I just stopped, and listened to the silence of my puppets. They were picking up on the vibe of the place, taking it all in.

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The loop of road, surrounded by stone walls, that taught me about patience and balance (Image by Liz Cameron)

As we went up to the meditation hall (pictured here), those puppets, they became even more calm as we sat in lotus style, and began to practice circular breathing before the teacher was to arrive.  I just worked on noticing only my breathing, just this moment now, nothing else, letting other thoughts be noticed only in their passing by – not counting and categorizing them.  Kenne, the Queen of Matters and Etiquette and Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior was the one who struggled most – not only was she documenting Buddhist meditation retreat etiquette in spades, but she really disapproved of the non-ladylike poses.  I just let her do her own thing…and she was silent after a time, but still taking notes for her new etiquette treatise.

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An homage to the Buddha, within a stone wall structure (Image by Liz Cameron)

Mostly, I was just amazed at myself, I could finally just focus on breathing.  I have always had trouble with that aspect of meditation, and for some reason this wild time in my life, I was finally able to let go and fall into the delicate balance of breathing and detached noticing of thoughts ambling by.  .

And so I learned tremendous amount about how to “practice” patience in different moments, in different ways – to balance patients as an antidote to anger or upset. And during one of our exercises on “walking meditation,” in which the goal is to just focus on how your feet touch the ground and how it feels in that moment, while breathing, I headed outside to see if I could tolerate meditation in a more stimulating place.  It was a chilly, grey day – and a slight breeze wrapped that chill around me.  I began to walk around the loop surrounded by beautiful old handmade stonewalls.

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I think even my Dad would not scoff at the use of mortar in this stone-balancing act of a dome to honor the Buddha as they only used it towards the top (Image by Liz Cameron)

Now, I grew up in New England, and I have seen a lot of stonewalls. My Father, a sturdy Yankee type, used to point out the best of those stone walls to me.  He would stop on a country road to look at a particularly exquisite, balanced wall, explaining to me the delicate process of collecting the stones (heaved up by the winter frost), saving them in a pile, and in the spring, deciding how each one fit together in the most balanced way, without using mortar, of course. He would scoff at the stonewalls in which mortar or cement was used to hold things together.  Sometimes we practiced making stonewalls, I think now, it must have been an exercise of learning how to be patient and calm – really a meditation – on the different shapes and weights of the stones and it struck me that here at this Buddhist retreat, these stone walls, it is really an example of a delicate strength.

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Looking at the world of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies from the top of an ancient stone wall – with a world of lichens and mosses to contemplate (Image by Liz Cameron)

In an errant serious moment, Karagöz whispered “this delicacy of careful stone placement and rock positioning is all towards the goal of long term balance.” “Yes,” Karagöz, I said, “yes it is.” So, while you might not instantly associate a stone wall with something delicate, I ask you to consider the balance aspect of a true stonewall, made without mortar, and the skill of patience that building process infuses in you, that the makers of such things must engage in to be successful.

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This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Puppets on the move around the world, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Weekly photo challenge: Delicate

  1. I love your approach to delicate here. Thank you for the mention!

  2. Rosamond says:

    Good post! I understand the meaning but I don’t think I would be able to focus on that to teach me patience. I will stick to ‘inhale, exhale and count to 20’ lol

  3. Rosamond says:

    If you have learnt to meditate and ground yourself then you can also visualise yourself in a bubble in which all negativity cant enter. You can visualise a mastiff outside the bubble keeping guard on your health. Do this is a dim quiet uncluttered place, make yourself comfortable, light a candle and try it at least 2/3 times a week for 1 month and then again every month for at least 4 months. You should feel a difference.

  4. E. says:

    Dear are, thank you for the specific suggestion – I think I am going to implement it today. I am sure will do a great good. Great once again to hear from my sage elder in the process of it all. XO, Liz

  5. E. says:

    Dear Little Miss wordy, thank you so very much for those kind words. When I took a look at your blog, I could see why it would make sense for you. It is a joy to find another interesting blog out there. Best to you for the holidays, Liz

  6. Pingback: Weekly photo challenge: Surprise – meat across the street in Little Armenia | Slowly-by-Slowly

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