By CPP participant Lisa Welchman

In ordinary times, if ordinary times actually exist, being together with other like-minded people to sit and warm your hands over the dharma comes with challenges and joys. The first meeting of the 2021-2023 Bodhi College Committed Practitioner’s cohort was no different.

There was the ordinary intensity of knowing that we would be together as a community for 18 months and the natural curiosity and suspicion that comes with such beginnings. We brought individual expectations, fear, joy, tragedy, emotional and physical injury, humor, and hope. Then, there were the usual logistics of gathering: managing the expectations and commitments of our personal life down to almost zero; trains, planes, cars, taxis, and bikes; the packing and unpacking and wondering if suitable garments and secret-stash food items had been brought along. Then you are there. You sign up for your yogi job and survey the landscape of the meditation hall. You try to find the right place where you will sit, face-forward and waiting for the revelatory insight from a teacher—that insight that will make the difference, at last. And then, the realization that waking up requires hard work like everything else worth having. You have arrived.

Our CPP beginning had all of this, but this beginning had added poignancy in our extraordinary Corona Virus diseased world. Just arriving in Naarden was a practice. For some, the journey had been very long. It included waiting for a state of affairs so that the odds were enough in our favor that we could proceed and be together in person. It was summing up the courage and taking the gamble to travel or discerning that traveling wasn’t the right choice. We withstood PCR tests, breathing the air of strangers in tight, confined spaces. We crossed international and intercontinental borders with laser-pointed determination and effort—hoping it was the right effort. And we arrived, intact and disease-free, but dug into our deeply individuated socially distanced practices. All of our humanness was amplified. We brought all of this to the table of the sangha.

And, we thrived—guided by our teachers.

They started this journey well ahead of us. Designing and building the destination with care and then building it over and over again as COVID 19 variated and rolled into a second full year. And then, like the rest of us, they made the same physical journey. They told us about the life of Gotama. We heard about his perilous journeys and the benefits of always continuing forward. We let the dharma and our practice of sitting together settle us and start to form our sangha.

Akiñcano reminded us to put fear in its proper place. Stephen conjured up a needed talk on a Buddhist response to COVID 19. And Martine’s insightful redirection of conversational threads always kept us centered. And then there was the bird that participated in our early morning sit. It reminded us that the days were moving and that all the ordinary things in the world were still happening. That includes the pall of uncertainty, fear, and inner and outer confusion. Time is passing, so we had better keep on our practice journey. And so, we do, and we will—with gratitude, compassion, and deep and abiding friendliness.