As I sit sipping tea, listening to a collection of CDs I am evaluating and smelling the burning sandalwood incense, I find myself returning to the sequence of today’s experiences one by one.
The calico deity awakened me early; she seems to need nightly reassurance lately. But a sleepy Katrina has little patience or interest in complex conversations. Apparently, She managed to handle whatever needed attention, so I drifted back to the between places. I drifted in primary consciousness, re-membering my dreams.
I had been at a neighbor’s home, apparently overnight. I was again on my epic search for a bathroom aided by my neighbor Pat, who deemed each bathroom unsuitable. After wandering through several areas, each resembling an old church, convent or monastic quarter, I suddenly realized that these were areas left unused from within my apartment. My dreamtime apartment, a separate area from my dreamtime house, usually symbolizes how I compartmentalized my life. And in these rooms from my apartment, Pat was entertaining and housing her guests! Whoa!
And although this meant that Pat had intruded into my area, I seemed only surprised, not angry. And then I realized that I could return to my house to use the bathroom. So I collected my belongings and headed out. Outside I turned left to locate my home, when in my waking life I would have turned right. And instead of a row house, I saw these two ancient buildings, like ruins sitting on a darkened plain. I approached the first and sat down on the steps to rest. After only a second, the entire building began crumbling. And I was falling down with all the debris. As I surrendered to the fall, I noticed that I was falling on a diagonal – falling free of the debris. And all I remember next was calico “chatter”.
As I floated in the between state, I tried to go back into the dream to see where I landed. But the calico goddess was now lying next to me purring gently. “Maybe this is where I landed.” So I made an effort to remember the dream sequence for my journal. Then I simply drifted, thinking about all I need to do today.
I had a chiropractic appointment, then I needed to fax documents to my insurance company, check my PO Box, mail a check to the roof repair company for the balance due, deposit a check, transfer funds, and pick up art and ritual supplies. And then off to the arboretum for some sketching, at least that was my plan.
It was my chiropractor that mentioned the Buddhist temple and its lovely garden. As I sat eating my breakfast at my favorite sandwich shop in Takoma Park, I decided that maybe Dr. Z was a messenger from the gods, like my calico priestess. Maybe the Buddhist garden is where I needed to land. So finished all my errands and headed out River Road.
I usually avoid the suburban sprawl, dotted with McMansions and golf courses – and I am not even going to mention all the “fake” town centers. I do not understand why if you want to build a multi-million dollar home, why would you want it built in spitting distance of 25 other identical monstrosities? There are barely any trees, so there is nothing to break the field of vision between homes. I feel like I have more privacy in my row house in the middle of the city! And abandoned pastured after abandoned pasture, planted with crayon green grass. I seemed to drive forever. I remember when one hour outside of DC was farmland in every direction. I blast Prince more out of defiance than enjoyment, till Joint-2-Joint of course. But as I approached the temple, I even turned the Rude Boy down.
It had probably begun as a simple farmhouse, with each addition it had lost some of its simple charm -- at least it was not a McMansion. Prayer flags and painted rocks up the drive way marked its presence.
I discovered that the garden was inaccessible due to my aching joints. No problem, I was invited to instead sit in the prayer room. I was invited to use one of the chairs instead of sitting on the floor. I entered quietly after removing my shoes and hat. A young woman was chanting softly as I entered. So I sat down and just relaxed for a while before exploring. The room was so peaceful and smelled wonderful. I first allowed my eyes, joints and breathing to adjust, and then I began opening my energy centers. I slowly became aware of the low hum given off by the huge crystals. I remembered when crystals, small ones even, would make me swoon. Now I can listen to them and move through their fields and even hold them in my hand. But here in the temple, I kept my hands to myself.
After the young woman stepped out briefly, I began wandering around the space. Large crystals, some the size of a large comfy chair, varying sized statues of Buddha and Tara draped with jewels and silk, and paintings of ascended saints covered almost every surface. Most of the altars had offerings of candies, crackers, fresh fruit, incense and endless copper bowls of water. I could not help but notice that although the overall effect was evocative of abundance and beauty, several of the individual items seemed garish and ill suited. I kept trying to reconcile some of the odd pieces that often sat side by side with arrangements of exquisite beauty and depth. I surrendered to the effect, and as I rounded the last bend, I had even noticed a perceptible lift in my energy. That is, until I came to the large photograph.
I am use to seeing photos of beloved teachers with offerings, and I had browsed several when I entered the room. However I was unprepared for the photo of the temple’s primary teacher. A photo of her had been on display in the lobby. I remember thinking it was odd that she wore such bright red lipstick for the standard photos with her teachers. But nothing prepared me for the photo displayed within the prayer room. She looked like one of those advertisements used to sell Valentine’s Day glamour photos in a mall. Big hair, blush, eye shadow and again bright red lipstick, all while she wore a saffron robe and held a mala. I almost laughed out loud. It was so incongruous.
I moved quickly to the next altar, suppressing a giggle. As I signed the guest book and left a donation, I smiled inwardly. So this is where I land, chuckling to myself in a Buddhist temple.
As I drove home, stopping for a bite, I kept turning it over in my mind’s eye. Wandering through a beautiful temple settled in the midst of suburban sprawl. An impenetrable garden dedicated to peace. A great Buddhist teacher made up delightfully as a “hoochie” mama. An ancient ruin crumbled under me, and I landed smiling on my sofa drinking tea.