Chapter 05: My Subsequent Weeks in the Month of June

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    June brought a big change to PaB in the move to the new pavilion located a short distance from the beloved and cozy teahouse in the Zen Retreat. Dakini built the new pavilion and did most of the decorating. A few of us added our own touches and Moon designed a logo for PaB. The actual move took place on June 19, 2008. The new pavilion provided a bit more structure or formality in that we were arranged neatly around a circle. It would be easier for more avatars to attend and easily be seen. With an open roof and walls, there was a good deal more room to move our avatar cameras around.

    On June 22, 2008, the Wiki made its first appearance although the it was awhile yet before the blog was abandoned. Fael, Friedrich, Sylectra and Pema did much of the nuts and bolts planning with Fael setting up the pages in early July. Up until this time, the guardians had been sending the logs to Pema who would post them to the blog. Pema put the first log on the Wiki on July 12.

    Fael Illyer, Thorberg Nordlicht, Pia Iger, Adams Rubble, Sylectra Darwin and Bertrum Quan also became guardians in June. At the end of the month there were 22 guardians.

    Also in June many of the guardians began to choose plots and move in, taking advanatge of Storm's inspiring landscaping.

    During the next few weeks in June I begin a pattern of working things out on my blog. I then brought either the resolution or new questions to PaB sessions. It proved a useful approach for me. I often attended two and a half sessions a day during this time. In this way I got a good flavor of PaB and began to get to know the other participants better. As I became more comfortable I began to have warm exchanges with the guardians of the time: Caledonia, Dakini, Fael, Fred, Genesis, Maxine, Moon, Rajah, Riddle, Solobill, Stevenaia, Stim, Storm, Thorberg and Trevor and also Sky. It may be the guardians were getting to know me as well. It was interesting that it would just take a warm comment or two to bring a human element to the avatar and also that this seemed to happen so quickly. At the same time I felt a special kinship with Fael and Pia who came into PaB a little before me and who also attended many sessions. Fael started a week me before me and was my main support for information and support the first week or two. I also felt a certain connection to the new participants closely following us.

    Teahouse shades.jpg

    Shady Monks and Me (Isen, Moon, Adams and Stim in Teahouse)

    I was still eager to learn anything I could about Buddhism. I eagerly gobbled up certain topics like mindfulness, compassion and meditation. I discussed meditation with anyone who could or would talk to me about it. Dakini gave examples of her practice (shamatha, vipashyana, and mahamudra, progressive states of meditation [concentration, insight, looking at mind]) and Trevor of his metods. Gambhira introduced me to a series of voice lectures on the dharmatalks website and I was inspired by a breath meditation procedure. I realized that I had been doing a form of breath mediatation for some years without ever knowing it.

    Surprisingly I was becoming more playful too, playing off others. I did not fully realize it at the time but I was allowing another side of me emerge through my avatar. It is a bit ironic that I was developing a new self as I was beginning to learn about dropping identities and attachments. Some of my conversations with Pema are amusing to read; I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. I still thought identity was my marital status, parental status and occupation. I kept explaining to Pema I was satisfied with my identity. But slowly I learned how fears, desires, and other things were identities that could be dropped. Of course, I am still learning now.

    There are many things extraordinary about Pema but one that has impressed me from the beginning is Pema’s insitence on a community of peers. In Pema’s words. “everyone learns from each other; young people have fresh ideas” and “older people their experience”; “anybody can speak up; mutual respect cuts across all levels like status, countries, etc.” This truly is a wonder. Another thing about Pema is that he read my blog and the chat logs and when I was frustrated or down he warmly offered encouragement; when I was proud of myself for understanding, he would not let me too satisfied but instead drive me on to deepen my understanding of whatever it was I thought I had learned. At one point I said I was very confused and Pema answered “Great! Wonderful!” and pointed out that was part of working with a koan. Pema insists on not being the teacher, and we respect that, but it is Pema who has created the opportunity for us to soar to new levels, explore new ideas and break down whatever boxes we have been living in.

    Let’s get this straight; I am not noted for patience. I was very impatient to figure out this PaB thing. Impatience can make one determined which can sometimes be helpful and I was driven during this time. I was not sure how long I would be able to commit to coming to Pab and I did not want to give it up with anything less than a “life changing’ experience. I did not trust myself to come back if I let up my “quest”. I saw this as my chance! During a discussion where my impatience came up, Pema gave me a koan to figure out “Who is impatient?”. This question could be applied to anything “Who is angry?”, etc. and I often played with it on my log. I eventually took a Buddhist approach and applied the answer “one with desire”. If desire leads to suffering then I needed to moderate this impatience. Looking back I see that I managed to do that and seem to have settled in for the long haul.

    Pema then gave me a second koan “What am I not seeing?” I still am working with this one as I write this eight months later.

    Being was another subject that often came up with this time. It was a perplexing word to me. Moon told me that it was part of the word for awareness in German and maybe it just meant “be”. Fael told me it was something at the core of PaB. During this time Pema introduced to some of us what he says is almost a mantra “Appreciate the presence of appearance as a presentation by Being”. It would only be later we would learn this phrase predated PaB.

    Pema Pera: “Appreciate the presence of appearance as a presentation by Being”
    Pema Pera: The way to read this is from the end
    Pema Pera: There is Being — Being is all there really IS
    Pema Pera: Being presents
    Pema Pera: What does Being present?
    Pema Pera: appearance
    Pema Pera: more specifically:
    Pema Pera: the presence of appearance
    Pema Pera: and what can we do with that?
    Pema Pera: Appreciate it
    Pia Iger: so easy :)
    Pema Pera: yes!!
    Pema Pera: once you learn to subtract, it all becomes very easy.
    Pema Pera: easier and easier as you go along
    Pema Pera: and “progress” becomes faster and faster
    Pema Pera: almost unfairly so :-)

    Anger as an attachment was a popular topic in PaB in June. Fael and I had talked about it privately and we explored this issue more frequently. Pia, who started about the same time as Fael and I, also was very interested in the topic. Doug noted that “we continually feel a mismatch between hope/expectation and what actually happens. To that mismatch there are many reactions. fear, anger - and art, are possible. So is compassion.” Doug also noted that at times anger can be “effective and even necessary”. Stim, Moon and Inzo weighed in on anger too:

    Stim Morane: anger is one of the most destructive emotions, from a traditional point of view. But it is also the most instructive.
    Isen Enzo: anger is an unskillful reaction to adverse stimulation…
    Moon Fargis: stim: emotions like little crying children
    Moon Fargis: ignoring them will make them cry louder, accept them will stop crying mostly

    Later we would learn that compasssion was a very powerful check on anger. More accurately:

    Stim Morane: Compassion…is explicitly an acknowledgement of that larger dimension … “compassion” is actually part of that.

    Stim would later explain that compassion needn’t be thought of as an emotion. This was mahakaruna or Great Compassion.

    One other personal thing that began in June was that I began to remember and record my dreams. It had been a very long time since I had been able to do that. I soon learned that many others also were doing this too. Maxine was always a help and showed me how my mind was being creative in changing the story to make it credible. Maxine also gave me the confidence to examine what the dream was trying to tell me. My dreams became an important part of my learning to see some of my fears, angerand desires as well as identities that were hiding. But much of that happened later. In my first month in PaB I laid the groundwork for much that was to happen later.


    Next: Sylectra

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