I am waiting for a special experience. I am waiting for the deity to arise; for the Guru to come in a dream. I am waiting for crystal clear zhinay, or the sound of Machig’s drum to wake me from sleep. I am waiting for my text to softly murmur the practice. So far, nothing.
I don’t own a sleeping bag, so I packed two thin blankets, thinking it would be hot. It is not. It is 40 degrees and I am lying in my tent, shivering. I sit up. The cricket who’s been singing on the top of my tent stops abruptly. I unzip the tent fly and crawl out. My right foot is not cooperating, as usual. I can only stand by pulling myself up, holding onto a tree branch.
I can see the shrine tent in the dark. Slowly, I feel my way among zabutons and sitting benches to my seat. I kneel down to the blanket and tuck the backside under me to make a small sitting cushion. I find the breath and settle in.
There are ants in this tent. They are crawling over me on their way to someplace more important. I am nothing special. It feels good to be just another thing in the path of an ant. It’s cold, but the cold of sitting zhinay is not the cold of trying to sleep in a tent. The cold has an intense energy to it. There’s nothing to shiver about in this cold, nothing to mind.
I feel my teacher here. I feel the sangha and all the teachers of the past. I feel the deep satisfaction of having met the dharma in this life. I feel grateful for a body that sits. I feel glad. Glad to have ears that hear the crickets’ songs that are never the same note twice. Glad to have lungs that breathe without effort or thinking. I feel glad for the retreat. Glad to be here. Glad that even though I have no realization, I am allowed to sit as though I might.
A couple of hours later, I make my way back to the tent. I leave my sandals outside, knowing they will be cold and wet in the morning. I crawl between the two thin blankets, which seem warmer now. I remember the words of my teacher, “Sleep is nothing special.” He might be wrong. I am falling asleep. It is glorious.