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    Guys, I came back so optimistic. I came back with vision and energy, and more of an understanding
    about what is happening in the group than I've felt for a longish while... about the way that we are
    diversifying forms and balances and how OK that is.  Better than OK. About how connected people
    still feel themselves to the Play-as-Being vibe and values.  About how we can practically meet in
    many different ways. About hybridizing! 

     

    Will write more at first chance. :)

    ...

     

    Back. 'First chance' has not chased me down, so I'll just begin, lest the fairy dust from the time fly away in the Miami traffic once the week begins...

     

    To give a simple summary (ha ha):

    On the first day, only Piet and Eiko (Kiremimi) had arrived by the time I landed, so Kiremimi met me at the airport where immediately we ventured to Keukenhof, land of tulips (well, after some luggage storage and that kind of thing). It was cold, drizzly. Blooms were not yet covering the fields. Instead, the famous flowers were at multiple stages of opening, and the meticulous design of the gardens could be seen - signs of raking and planting in perfect rows, in well thought-out color combinations and turns meant to surprise or tickle. So many umbrellas! We snapped lots of photos, but my favorite is actually a photo bomb taken in the enormous covered area. I'm sure you can tell which it is, and how we were feeling at the time. :) 

    I checked into my quite charming hotel, and although intending to take a walk outside, found myself too sleepy after such long travel. The plane rides had gone as well as one could wish for, yet I'd stayed just out of sleep, hallucinating my daughter sitting on the floor cross-legged, animatedly conversing with me.

    I checked in on WhatsApp, and fell asleep. Woke a few hours later, checked in again. People were beginning to arrive, and Alfred, who had started the whole thing yet was not able to make it, was keeping us smiling with comments along the way. Message from Piet came, that our original intention to have coffee or tea at their hotel restaurant was also not going to work well on Easter Monday morning! So plan Be. We would meet in the lobby and move on to a new place for breakfast.

    The first avatar I encountered was Tura, who I immediately recognized from a small SL profile snippet, and who, as well as others, felt my description of a pink raincoat was not quite right. It wasn't quite pink, more salmon or bisque. ;-) A warm and easy encounter. Things off to a nice start. Then Wol, then Eos, then Mick and Morgano, Piet, Wester and Berti, Eiko. From there we set out for another restaurant where we sat at a long table - nice, but not ideal, chatting away and getting a feel for one another. Soon, we took a walk which ultimately led us to a restaurant in Vondelpark, where we moved the tables into more of a session feel, some of us sitting happily in the coat rack. 

    We mostly used avatar names, for no reason I could see but that it was comfortable to do so. Wol was "Wol" and Tura "Tura". I was almost always "Eliza", and Bert, conveniently "Bertie". Eos gave Pema a snow globe "Happy Birthday" gift that reached back to time in Nova Scotia, where at The Lord Nelson, there had been a one and only attempt to recruit someone into a RL PlayasBeing exploration on the spot. It had been Stim's birthday that week, and a time in which it was beginning to feel important to find ways to reach through Second Life more. The notion of the snow globe that takes 9 seconds to settle, seemed the perfect tangible and carryable symbol then, before everyone had a smart phone in their pocket! Eos had also designed the "Droplet" app for the wiki around that time, where anyone could pause, while seeing others also pausing. In the next day's gathering we came back to this idea again, catching up with new tech and an app some of us have been using, Insight Timer. Tura had already found the way to set a recurring bell!

    So at this first real settled-for-a-while-feeling gathering, Pema caught us up a little on the projects he has been involved in over the last 5 years especially - the incredible and unique opportunities to begin a substantial origins of life institute, with ELSI, a collaborative center for the study of consciousness, with Y-house, and recently a new project springing from the discovery of gravitational waves. He mentioned a little about how PlayasBeing had factored and does factor into the overall sense of all these projects, which too would be picked up on in more depth later.

    Food arrived. I felt so glad that Wester asked to include us all in the food meditation she's been practicing as her 99 Days exploration. Her way of doing this too, was refreshing, adding no judgment or even sense of 'prayer', but simply taking a moment to elaborate on what it took for our meal to reach the table, all the beings involved, the elements, the water, moon and stars, work and time... how everything is interconnected. This felt deeper to me than even 'giving thanks'.

    As we began to eat, Kiremimi introduced herself more to others who had perhaps not gotten a chance to know her as well in Second Life, since her time there has been spent more in research, and with a few other communities. Unlike Pema, Kiremimi was not immediately drawn to virtual worlds. It took a little while before she began to have the personal encounters that revealed the many possibilities of Second Life, to see the diverse self-organizing life that was already happening. So she talked a little about Diverse Intelligences, her work with adult avatars on the autism spectrum, and the book she's written in Japanese, which opened the door for a documentary to be filmed with NHK TV (the Japanese equivalent of BBC). I've been involved with this work as well, so it is dear to my heart as an example of the best SL is capable of, in bringing unlikely people together who are able to support and enrich one another's lives as well as the 'general knowledge' bank. 

    As I guess we are too!

    For the only time in the week, Pema then put one of us a little on the spot in a way that will be familiar to early PaBers. With gentle but focused leadings of "please say more", we got to hear from Bertram about the developments in his life and very real challenges, but more than that, Bert conveyed his very clear and beautiful sense of Being. Even now as I recall, I hear his words fade and rise, but what comes through a sense of the strong presence that felt to so easly pour from his sharing. From then, we could come back to that sensibility. Which set a tone for the time.

    Half the group parted for a while from here, with Pema and Kiremimi spending the rest of the day together, and Mick and Morgano taking it more lightly due to Morgano's injured foot. The rest of us walked to a more bustling part of the city for drinks in a tented area with heaters in the ceilings, and our first sight of the most lavishly prepared mint tea! We had a heart-felt session, going in a circle and sharing more about where we find ourselves in life, and our desires for the time, if we had them. Wol was particularly strong and honest in this conveyance, which broke down whatever formality was still clinging.

    This was still just mid-day, on the first official day.

    The city was incredibly busy, although it always is from what I'm told, and it was time to find some place to gather for dinner. Eos mentioned that the energy of the city makes for an especially vivid alertness. Bicyclists have the right of way, and trams, then pedestrians and cars. At any moment, you need to make sure your feet are on the correct texture in the correct lane, and that you aren't about to miss the changing lights. Eos remarked on the sight of people on bicycles, texting on their phone while holding briefcases, dressed in nicest clothes. I took a moment to stop and wholly take that in.

    We, including Mick and Morgano, eventually settled on Indonesian food, which most of us had never eaten. We made a call at a place with good reviews, but received no answer. We set out anyway but when we arrived, the line was out the door - no wonder. So nearby we found a small Indian spot with few patrons, which seemed pleased to receive such a large group. And this is where we began to chat about PaB - The Group. And this is where I began to *really feel* how much everyone still loves PaB, how much the community has meant and still means to everyone.

    I've spent so much time with Mick in sessions over the years, so I had a sense of his devotional sort of heart, but hearing him (in his quite elegant voice actually), describe the attention he'd already put in to becoming familiar with the text we'll begin soon on Thursdays, Conference of the Birds, and the way he hoped the group might benefit from exploring writings mostly unfamiliar to us, which touch on sensibilities of Being, I was struck in a new way. Meeting Morgano too, put so much in context, as over the rest of the time we got to enjoy their dynamics and hear about their many adventures before and after 'family life'. She gave us so much insight into the way PlayasBeing has mattered to and affected him/them, and the way Mick's become more and more a person of ease amidst the chaos for others. She feels drawn to participating more in the group, yet much will depend on timing and the demands of career for now. 

     

    So that was Day One (April 1st and 2nd).  :)

    ...

    Might as well keep going. :)  On to Amsterdam - Day 2, Morning Meeting...

     

    April 3rd was the only day in which we had a settled plan for an official PaB session. Due to the busy weekend perhaps, it hadn't been easy to do as in previous years Pema had done, which was to rent a larger suite room in order to accommodate private sessions. In fact the rooms most of us enjoyed were super efficient and hard to accomodate more than one or two standing. :)  So what we found, was a *beautiful* 'library lounge' meeting room in a posh hotel called Ambassade, normally used for business or literary meetings. 

    While reserving the room for 3 hrs, there was an exchange (paraphrasing):

    Them:   "We will need the name of your company in order to reserve the space."
    Me:   "Play-as-Being. But we aren't a company. We're a kind of meditation group."
    Them:  "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, but we're not equipped to accomodate a meditation group. We would not be able to move the table and chairs for that occasion."
    Me:    "That's perfectly okay. We're sort of an unusual meditation group and won't be using anything like meditation cushions. It will be more of a discussion with meditative pauses, so chairs are fine.
    Them:   "I see."
    : )

    My recollections of these conversations are slightly more disordered than the day before, but the main thing is that it was a time of practicing pauses. After we were settled, Eos caught the group up on themes that had arisen while the whole group was not together, and then at Wester's leading, we took our first, then second pause after the slightly late arrival of two of our crew.

    3 minutes. Timed by Eos, wearing his famous DROP t-shirt. Then Pema checking with everyone, to see how that had been. Wol with a huge smile exclaiming, "No way!" about the the fast passing of the time.

    One of the group shared hesitation about pausing, there, but also in general. For them, so much emotion would arise so quickly, and feelings of sadness and loss in their life, that they had a fear of pausing. There was a small discussion about that, because it was a phenomenon most had experienced when first pausing and still. Eos used the illustration of theatre masks with a smile or frown, as a way to work with the emotions, like watching a play (in the photos you'll see little pictures being drawn).

    At this, I thought about our dream discussions, and actually so many dream meetings throughout the years... how many had expressed similar feelings about going further into their dreams, afraid that they couldn't contend with what might arise. And the way, through our workshops and discussions, we try to be there for one another as guides and fellow adventurers. Knowing that others will be there for you when you come out, can make the difference between going into the cave in the first place or not! 

    It was in this way that the first theme arose: responding rather than reacting; being the mirror rather than the reflection, then later, "empty mirror." Spaciousness.

    As the discussion continued, 99 Days came up, and I described my variation of the "Trying to Shift" exercise Pema described in a Yhouse/Lucid Living blog post, which was something like 1) stopping, 2) surveying/including, 3) letting go/Being. I felt thankful that Wol asked for elaboration, because Pema was then able to clarify what he had in mind, and we touched on You Seeing Being Seeing (also Enlightened Being Seeing - including why that part of the equation had been dropped along the way). We then began to do 3 Breaths for our pauses, which was funny, because unlike using a timer to set a 3 minute bell, looking around to see if others had finished 3 breaths, was fairly impossible!

    Wester said, "You can't really ask, 'Have you finished breathing yet?'"  :D

    I think it was after that, that Wol remarked on presence - on how different it is to pause with others. Once again we found ourselves considering Being. Or, in the context above, Step 3. That's where it gets quiet for a moment, with shy smiles and simple appreciation arising. 

    There is one strong phrase that keeps coming back to me from the whole week, and it came up around this time. Bert began to turn the tables on Pema again, asking more about PlayasBeing, where it came from and why, which led not only to Pema sharing, but to our conversing about the group a little more -- where it might be wanting to go, what it might be wanting to do, whether it had run a natural course. And Mick said something very simple like, "I still need this." As he elaborated, my eyes were downward yet I was listening as the phrase jumped out ---- "to make love overwhelming in my life."

    I mean, what a beautiful, quite sufi actually, sensibility.  I can't believe I didn't cry. I always cry. :)

    And Wester was able to share more about what had changed for her, when she decided to step back from the group, at least for a while. Yes, life with family and work is very busy, but also, it was a shift in her way of being, if I understood clearly, toward a more quiet and gestural practice. So there was another kind of question in the air then, about whether PlayasBeing is able to not just accomodate but include, such wide variations of aspirations and rhythms. Also appreciation for the myriad ways in which the group and ideas also had.

    Then too, practical matters. Would we, should we, continue to keep the land? What about the energies and inspiration for creative projects (of course considering the significant expression of the group that bleu has facilitated over time)?

    I mentioned that I'd read the logs that morning, and had come across an exchange ...


    pab's name.JPG

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Everyone laughed and smiled, though to my sight it looked like a wave that traveled around the table with Wol and Pema, then Tura, then all. It felt wonderful to have more of the group with us there. And this might be the second time I *felt deeply* a change of perspective that seemed to encompass a wider vision.

    I thought, "Ah, we're hybridizing. This is a Retreat/Meet-up, not a retreat or meet-up. Half here are no longer in Second Life for the most part, but are still very much Play as Being and playing as Being. One of the most vivid presences is participating through text along the way! There are SL avatars here, and I hear their voices clearly too."

    I began considering other expressions of lives connected as Play as Being through individual endeavors... the way Adams blogs, and Eden sometimes, the way Wol, Eos, and I intend to write more as well. Some are already using Insight Timer and Wester will make a group...

    For a moment it seemed even quite OK if we went back to beginnings. Who knows? What have we to do with starts and ends? :)

    That was Wednesday morning.
     

    We dispersed from Hotel Ambassade after oohing and ahhing over the beautiful bathrooms, and took a walk to find a nice spot for lunch. Which we did, with a big wood-firing oven, and another sighting of the dramatic mint tea I wish I'd snapped a photo of! I ate an almond/orange cookie Eos had noticed as he remembered with fondness, almond cookies in Malta. For the second time, Wol ordered what I thought of having (we'd ordered the same thing the first day).

    After a pleasant lunch, Piet headed back to 'hundreds of emails', and the rest of us set out to buy tickets for a canal tour, taking in the sites along the way. I liked these little streets especially, some of them very narrow with the buildings seeming to look down smiling as we walked through. After going over options at lunch, we decided on a 90 minute cruise, which was described as moving through the main canals, but also giving a lot of freedom to the boat captain. "Arthur" was a hoot, so much playing with his character, juggling his jokes, maps, and history books.

    "There are 1.3 bicycles for every person", he told us. To which Wester, who as it turns out is quite the vibrant comediene(!), replied, "One to own, and .3 to have stolen."  After hearing about the ways bikes are managed and/or abandoned, and the way people will resourcefully borrow parts from abandoned ones, Eos noted that well, they are "re cycled." Haha.

    But before the boat ride, which was a nice change of pace, mostly quiet, just following along as Arthur pointed out special buildings... where Rembrandt painted, where the science museum is, what exhibits might be especially worthwhile (Tura managed a visit to the National Gallery), what the house with the red curtains might be ;-), some separated for a while again, to rest legs, to rest mind and absorb the conversations of the day. Bertie found a church. Mick and Morgano found bookstores. Wol, Eos, Tura, Wester and I began an intended "slow quiet walk."

    Which did work for a bit, but I couldn't stop taking photos. And also Eos needed to fetch train tickets for the next day. The grey skies began to clear and we were shedding garments as we moved, trying not to lose each other among the crowds. Thankfully we were all back to the boat in time.


    It seems like so much, doesn't it? Well you have to understand that we were all pretty easy with one another, and I noticed that even when we separated, we didn't want to be apart for long. But I'll try to abridge a slight bit from here. :)

     

    Following the canal tour, where I also snapped the photo I posted just under the group one on the main photos page, following Morgano's lead to stand and come to the front of the boat to snap photos at this point in the journey, following another's lead to further go out onto the stairs just outside the boat, we found a place for drinks - a largish pub overlooking the bustling (Morgano is pretty great at this kind of thing, spotting and following through). We stayed for hours. Wester again ordered an interesting drink, and helped the rest of us decipher the menus.

    Somehow, we didn't get around to ordering meals, because we'd 'intended' to stop for just a bit. But we laughed a lot, had some cheese and beer, and delicious bread that has a funny story behind it not quite mine to tell. ;-) We learned a bit more about one another's families and daily lives while there, even soft-spoken Tura's. It is amazing to consider that Tura has been with the group for a few years now, joining during TSK readings. 
     

    :) Time is doing strange things.
     

    Was that the end of the day? I think so. Tura set off on a solitary adventure then. Wol set off in one direction and Eos and I in another, for our hotels, Mick and Morgano for a market stop, Wester and Bertie for home (they were the only ones driving in and had trafic to contend with each day).


    The next part will be Thursday - our last day, but that will need to wait a little while, since I didn't intend to write so much this morning! :)

    ...

    :) Sooner than expected. The Universe seems to be clearing my schedule today...
    ...


    Amsterdam - Thursday, The Last Day
     

    During the week we'd found that a cozy room next to the lobby of my hotel made for a fairly nice spot to meet between other plans. It wasn't an enclosed nor totally quiet space (the music made for interesting pause accompaniment at times), but it was empty for long stretches and had comfortable chairs. So we met there on Thursday morning, as our last official gathering before Pema caught a plane to Denmark, and Eos a train to Paris.

    It was a surprisingly rich time, perhaps due to the foundation of the previous days together. Pema even called the interaction glowy. What is funny, is that after the first day, when Pema had shined the spotlight on Bertie and Bertie had conveyed such effervescence, Bertie had responded by each day at some point, shining the spotlight back on Pema, asking him to "say more" about PlayasBeing and the way 'it all' fits together.

    Others also, had taken the conversation further and further, until it opened, inclusive of all of our core interests at once. Time and broken milk bottles entered the picture. Risking a little disconnection, I took notes. There are so many things Pema has expressed that no matter how many times I hear, I hear in new ways, and on this day he seemed easily expressive. In fact I kept thinking, he's awfully easy-going when he will fly out so soon!


    One part of the conversation I may have understood better than at any other time, was about the radically celebratory and joyful approach of play-as-being exploration.  In terms of 'spirituality' (my word not Pema's), religious traditions often encourage a sense of a small being asking something, needing something, of a big being. Trying to 'get' what one is sure is needed and one doesn't have yet, such as enlightenment. Right away, there is a basic premise, a story of suffering, which can be then filled in with a backstory... such as Adam and Eve's garden.

    Mythological stories, metaphors, are useful to get a vivid sense, but when/if we buy into them completely, we close off to many present possibilities, live in a more limited way. Instead, one might see the story of being cast out from the garden, separated into big being/small being, as a kind of nightmare, see/live as that there is no separation.

    Someone might ask "How old are you?" and the answer one gives is based on a previously agreed upon story, not one experienced first hand. In some sense, one's name, one's profession, the recounting of a trip one just took with avatars, etc... nothing is 'truly' fixed. Not past, not future. What one feels to have experienced first hand, like seeing milk bottles smash to the ground, is even more difficult to approach this way, but Pema suggests it still can be. We firmly believe in past, present, future. Yet roles and stories might also be seen like passports, to partake in particular adventures. :)


    BUT, here are a few actual (quite imperfect) notes. Above is just my interpretation.

    - 'So starting with the working hypothesis of "nothing is missing/wrong", is to *play* each moment, as it is, whether fortunate or unfortunate, with deep meaning. To see the whole life as if it might be a dream, to respond and have no regret.

    'Regret is the biggest ego trick.'  This does not mean imposing a 'positive' interpretation, nor ignoring horrors.

    "Reality has in common with the dream, the centralizing on a small part ("I have this, I am this or that"). But when you wake, you become aware that it is all the same consciousness. When lucid in a dream, you shift -- similar to a 'mystical' level.  There is more of a collaboration. 

    "The most honest description of play-as-being is like children, unlearning (attachment to fixed identification), while retaining reason" - expressing 'what you are' instead of what you have or do, although what you have/do may give a sense of (that) Being. As in a lucid dream.

    (snip)

    If TSK is taken radically, every moment could be magic. If you let go of being glued to a particular story, there is more room for "wildly different."
     

    Wester elaborated quite nicely on this sensibility of, in her words, "splitting into smaller consciousnesses" as expressions of the Whole. Which now reminds me of the conversation I left out of Wednesday's notes, about shifting attention from painting to the paint. Pema reminded us that reflections themselves point back to the mirror. Appreciating the presence(paint) of appearances(painting) as a presentation of/by Being is, perhaps also, just Being?

    I took SO many notes, more than I can share at once, but there is something I don't want to miss...

    Bertie asked, "But why the group?"

    And Pema answered for a while, about how much more interesting it is to play with others, how much more complex a game/play/concerto might happen. Then he said, about the actual expression of the group as he'd observed, "Almost no one talked about Being, but the play that resulted was surprisingly gentle. What came out was/is the play-as-being spirit. This was Being too."

    :)


    Well, the Adventure continues, and this little one, a little longer too...
     

    Most of us went on to a great lunch at a funky spot where the radio played covers of several groovy songs, and a patient waiter translated nearly the entire menu. I learned that Wester knows so much about food! A few made a pact to come home and reach out to people we care for but have been avoiding for whatever reason... to at least say the true basics like, "I'm here. You matter to me."  And Mick showed us how to use Lumiya app for our phones - what it looks and feels like to visit the pavilion that way, as he'd done the night before. I tried to show Wester the balloons at the pavilion, as a consideration for our upcoming Insight Timer photo, but couldn't get the angle right. :)

    Eos caught his train and the rest went back to the open tented area for a while and talked about, among other things, Second Life and other virtual worlds, like Sansar and High Fidelity. Also gaming worlds. Okay, and some dog talk. :) 

    Tura said Goodbye, to be off to the gallery, then home. Then Wester and Bert, Mick and Morgano. Partings were warm, as if it would be so easy to see one another again, as if we lived just around the corner.

    Just two were left.

    Eliza, who made her way to the Van Gogh Museum, having scored tickets the day before (only way was to secure an exact time window online), and Wol, who went to take a nap before they'd meet for dinner later.

    With just a slight bit of guilt, after much walking and many other ideas fell through, we waited a while and were seated in the lovely Indonesian restaurant that had been too full days before. We stayed a long while, catching up. :) It is so easy to think we all 'know' one another, but actually Pema is right, nothing is fixed.

     

    In the morning, way too early, I flew home.

     

    _/!\_

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    106.65 kB15:39, 8 Apr 2018elizaActions
    Viewing 8 of 8 comments: view all
    Thank you so much Eliza for this vivid "plan Be" ! What an extraordinary report of the Amsterdam retreat! I enjoyed so much reading it, feeling immersed in your experiences. The characters, some known, some unknown ( but all of them on SL level for me), the places, the meetings, the sights, the rain, the meals, Vondel Park and Keukenhof, a snow globe, the timers, and so many insights! Your writing is a pure delight!
    Posted 16:58, 8 Apr 2018
    Oh, thank you Eden! I'm so glad it is coming across. :) I have one more 'chapter' to write soon. ^.^
    Posted 17:33, 8 Apr 2018
    New chapter as fascinating, thanks!!!
    Posted 13:53, 9 Apr 2018
    Wonderful Eliza. Don't change a thing. I am almost there with you as you tell it. Thank you!
    Posted 15:38, 9 Apr 2018
    thank you Eliza ... it feels like you opened a window and a fresh breeze blew in to re-animate Being in all of us! thinking about nothing fixed and yet our connections are strengthened and we play together ... at least a little longer, realizing nothing fixed ... grateful for PaB friends!
    Posted 18:14, 9 Apr 2018
    Grateful for you Bleu! And Storm! and Eden! I was on the exercise bike for a little while today, listening to a teacher who was giving a talk in a kind of class setting I used to dream about being part of, musing on how much probably would not happen there, that does happen in PaB organically (which as you mentioned today bleu does not mean there isn't feeding into). It really is all special and surprising, yet seems to resist definition. I feel 'on my toes' again! edited 22:43, 9 Apr 2018
    Posted 22:17, 9 Apr 2018
    Thank you so much Eliza for your beautiful description. I almost feel like I was there.
    Posted 11:42, 12 Apr 2018
    That's all I could have wished for in writing. :) ty.
    Posted 14:58, 12 Apr 2018
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