After morning service, and before breakfast, I change from robes into warmer outdoor gear and take off for a walk in the neighbourhood. Mostly I'd prefer to stay in the warm and have a cup of tea however I go out anyway, it seems good to do. I travel the same route more or less, so no surprises. At the moment we are in a 'melt'. Last weeks heavy snow is still about on trees, roofs and gardens and the occasional snowman mounds sadly, dissolving slowly. The roads are clear except for slush and huge puddles at the curb and crossing places. It's quite a project to cross without getting shoes and socks soaked.
No surprises. Fellow travelers do, or do not, meet. Some smile broadly others are otherwise preoccupied. High schools students, in no hurry, crowd the sidewalk in straggling two's and three's. The lonely elderly are the most friendly. Then there are the 'bottle pickers'. I met one the other morning with a supermarket cart filled to overflowing; drinks cartons, cans and bottles on their way to be exchanged for cash. He was mid-puddle and I jumped in to help the cart wheels over an invisible obstacle. "No madam, no, please don't madam"! I pulled, he shoved and he and the cart were on their way. But not before he took the opportunity to tell me about the anti christ and how the major powers were taking over the world and it wouldn't be long now.... I listened on, wished him well, and made a parting remark about what a nice lot of bottles he had and to "take care now". "Thanks madam" he replied.
The good thing about morning walks is that I am not going anywhere. It's just an 'out for a walk' time. No goals, no purpose save an interest in getting air into the lungs and stiffness out of the limbs. At other times of the day I'll have a purpose; the bank, the library, the supermarket, it's the same walking though. And so it is with practice, every day it's the same walking. So it's apt that the first ceremony of the Ten Precepts Meeting (Jukai) would be the Journey to the Monastery. Each day, each step, each breath one can choose to return and remain within the 'monastery', within ones own body and mind.
There is a line in one of our scriptures which goes, "May we within the temple of our own hearts dwell, amidst the myriad mountains". Oh, and the refrain at the end is Hail! Hail! Hail! That's an expression of the joy of simply walking, seeing, thinking, smelling... Don't get me wrong, some mornings it's hard, very hard. And some mornings I stay in and have that cup of tea, and go out latter.
At Shasta Abbey this evening, The Ceremonies for the Opening of the Gate of the Ten Precepts retreat started with a Dharma Talk for monks and guests. Tomorrow evening it will be The Ceremony of the Reading of the Ten Precepts.