The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Little Lotus Camp

Friday was the final day of Little Lotus Camp, our annual summer week of kids fun at the House of Meditation.  Each summer I find myself deciding once again, after deciding no I can't, that Yes, I will assist for the week.  And each summer I'm glad I've participated once again, because of course the kids make it totally worth all the planning, preparation, creating, energy and time!
Each summer takes a little longer to prepare, and then to recover from super concentrated time with a group of energetic, bright 5 to 10 year olds.  
Because my colleague and I have spent much time in the Montessori 3-6 year old classroom, that's how we set up the camp--lots of self-correcting activities and crafts, hands-on snack prep, circle time and simply "following the child", to quote Maria Montessori.
Most everyone can handle the freedom most of the time, and sometimes, as in any group of this sort, everything falls apart!  And then we put it back together again, or at least together in some way.
We practiced a simple Metta prayer that was new this year, then made malas that represented the prayer, as well as the Jataka tales we presented for parents at the end of camp.  Then we made origami boxes to hold the malas.
We practiced yoga, and they learned the lotus mudra: the flower that opens, closes, and then, turning the fingers downward, the flower's roots in muddy water.
We talked about listening to the heart in order to find answers to questions that might be difficult.  And we discussed the wisdom of sharing our questions with our families and friends, because who knows what experience might be a shared experience!

As always happens with kids, there were comments and questions that just arrived out of the blue; so much compassion, consideration and wonder, clearly alive behind each word.  Adults don't walk around talking about the worms their Daddy picks up from the sidewalk to lay in the grass.  Adults don't flop on their bellies on the floor with abandon to watch a friend color.  Adults don't ask how a broken bone feels when it mends, or why some bubbles pop while others rise above the rooftop, and why is the lotus so important to Buddhists anyway?!?
Is it that we think we already know the answers?  Do we care?  Are we embarrassed to move our bodies as a child does, each movement an experiment in physics or self-control or no-control?  What does it take to allow for this sort of "knowing" to be present?
I ask myself this question frequently, because I feel my desire for living in this sort of awareness it a function of having lived 58 years and reaching a point where most of those things I set out to accomplish while younger are now behind me? 
One of my mentors, a dear, brilliant teacher who has been practicing Shin Buddhism for over 60 years, puts it this way: "The older I get, the more mysterious and wonderful things become."
I find this is quite true, and I often feel like a child, like 7 year old River who created so many gorgeous drawings of monsters for me this week, and who held his drawing out each time as gift to be given and accepted, a connection created that is profound in it's simplicity and love, so obviously essential, and yet so frequently lacking.
So it's back to the grown up world for me, but I hope I too can head toward that "mysterious and wonderful" vantage point my wise mentor speaks of...that vantage point is Buddha, climbing the mountain, standing on top of the mountain, then climbing down the other side, Buddha, sharing what is discovered!


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