We flew back from England last Friday. The flight was long, but made easier by the relatively comfortable seats in Air New Zealand's Business Premium (two, side-by-side, slanted toward the window; one window seat and one aisle, so no climbing over strangers!) and by not-bad meals and access to good movies. Still, eleven hours crossing eight time zones in a tin can is pretty wearing on the human body, and we arrived in a state of some exhaustion. Saturday and Sunday were recovery days--though we did have tickets for the L.A. Philharmonic yesterday, Sunday, for a Ravel concert conducted by the indefatigable Gustavo Dudamel. In a rousing climax, I learned a new respect for the old chestnut, "Bolero"--itself one, long, rousing climax. Amazing what can be done with one small thread of a tune...
I've been thinking a good deal about community these past couple of days. While in the U.K.--TBD readers will know this--Ellie and I visited my sister, in hospital following emergency surgery for a blockage in digestive system. In a grave situation and facing an uncertain future, Flora manages to maintain a remarkably clear and accepting state of mind. I asked her, specifically, whether it was her long meditation practice that made this possible--since I myself have been practicing, now, these twenty years, in part out of the conviction that it would help me to approach the end of life with some measure of grace and equanimity. But she said, firmly, no. What sustains her, she said, is rather the support of profound friendships she has made in the course of her long association with the Ridhwan School. She has worked hard to create and maintain her place in this community, and this is what she turns to, with extraordinary results, at the time of her greatest need.
Meditation is, for me, a mostly solitary undertaking. For years I have been a more or less regular member of a small sitting group in Laguna Beach. Our sangha meets mostly on Sunday mornings (and also on Tuesday evenings, though I have not been in Laguna often enough on a Tuesday to attend those sessions) and this is a community in which I feel truly "at home." But living in two places, as we do, is hardly conducive to community in the sense that I would wish. Meditation takes me inward, to explore the recesses and reaches of my mind. It is the outward journey that I fear I risk missing out on, that cultivation of the love and embrace of my fellow travelers on this earth.
So, another good teaching from my sister! It bears more thought--and action. As Rainer Maria Rilke put it in his sonnet, Archaic Torso of Apollo, Du musst dein Leben ändern... (In English, You must change your life...)
And keep on changing it, it seems, with each and every step along the way.