Saturday, December 13, 2014
Going to Sky Creek
The Sky Creek Dharma Center is supported by four different Buddhist sanghas that each have their own “take” on Buddhist thought and practice: The Monday night group is associated with Thich Nhat Hahn; the Tuesday night group does Vipassana meditation out of the Thai Forest Tradition and is associated with Spirit Rock Meditation Center; the Wednesday night group is Soto Zen and is associated with both Shasta Abbey in Redding and the Zen Center in San Francisco; and the Thursday night group calls itself “Dharma Buffet”, and I have read that it includes some Tibetan Buddhist practices. Since it was also once known as “Twenty-somethings”, I assume it attracts a somewhat younger crowd than the rest. I don't know precisely how the governance is done, but there is a board that has people from all four sanghas. Sky Creek also has a couple of non-Buddhist groups that meet there. I have recently been going to the Taoist Study group – not because of any philosophical preference, but simply because it's so much easier for me to drive to Chico on Sunday mornings as opposed to a weekday evening. We meditate 15 minutes, then discuss the Tao Te Ching for 45; early arrivers can do some Chi Gung practice to loosen up before meditation. I have been trying, as part of my practice, to learn deep listening, to focus on what others are saying rather than getting filled up with what I might want to say. For me, the best part of Sky Creek, better than any particular group or teacher there, is just the center itself. It looks like it was, at one time, somebody's “dream house”, built on a generous bit of countryside, with a creek running through it. I feel happier and more peaceful just to set foot there. The thing I missed, more than anything during my years as a Baha'i was having a place, that was there set aside for spiritual purposes – and now, as a Buddhist, I have it. And it's not so very complicated; some of the groups I mention above aren't any bigger in terms of membership than our Baha'i community in Red Bluff was. But they do work together with each other, and very likely had some support from their larger affiliates – or maybe they were just lucky in having some well-to-do members. However they managed it, they own the property outright, and to me it's a little piece of heaven right outside Chico. Exactly how I made the journey from unenrolled Baha'i to Buddhist is kind of hard to describe. It's something that I never thought would happen, and was not at all my intent when I began looking for local places where I might find a group to meditate with. These groups don't get hung up on what you believe, specifically. The only question I have been asked is whether or not I'm a beginner at meditation – because the practice is the center of what you're doing there, not teaching or reaffirming yourself in a particular set of propositions. Even textual study is done with a critical eye – it's not at all uncommon for me to hear someone say that they just flat disagree with a passage in the Tao Te Ching. But it would be wrong to call it irreverent – it's a very respectful atmosphere. Nobody bows as much as Buddhists do. Sometimes I'm not all that sure what we're bowing to – the room, the statues of the Buddhas, the current teacher, each other, or just to the East. In any case, I could have retained Baha'i belief and meditated with these folks, and no one would have had a problem with it because beliefs of any kind are rarely discussed. Anyway, the final collapse of my attachment to Baha'u'llah paralleled the collapse of my marriage, and I have the feeling that the two were intertwined, but I cannot precisely place either one as cause or effect. All I know is that by time it was over, my dance with the Divine Beloved was done, and I had a real-life romance going on, and my spiritual life was more like calming water than a roaring fire. This isn't something that I could have chosen earlier, although I've long admired Buddhism for its extremely practical approach. It took a change in my emotional life before I could change my spiritual direction. Now I feel like enough time has gone by that I can comfortably change direction in my blog as well, maybe to make weekly posts on what I've been studying and/or thinking about. It would be nice to begin writing again.