This year we have advanced our Buddhist training programme by instituting the idea of a set of Five Sesshin (intensive retreats), by reasserting some of the original ideals of the amitarya programme and moving to a less-tied-down style of life, and by holding a ten day non-stop-chanting intensive in November-December, perhaps the first of its kind in the West. New people have joined the sangha and there is certainly electricity in the air as well as the deepening peace of shared confidence.
This has, for me, been a year of much travelling. I've rarely been in one country more than four weeks at a stretch. Twelve months ago I was in India with Jnanamati. He is now back there and I'm in Spain in Gran Canaria. In the meanwhile I've visited California, Israel, New York, Italy, France, Belgium, Korea and Japan. I was in Japan immediately after the tsunami and in Korea during the worst monsoon for 100 years. I've been to Spain several times and established a "second life" here with many good friends and involvement in the local Maestro Eckhart sangha. I've lectured, run retreats, met spiritual masters, learnt about Shinto, and drafted an autobiography. We've started an Institute for Zen Therapy. I've also published a book of Poetry called Her Mother's Eyes, thanks to the good offices of the Quaker Universalists.
Much of the early part of the year was impeded by differences of opinion between Caroline, my ex, and myself, about how the organisation that we jointly were involved in starting should proceed. In November we achieved a break through in negotiations and she is now setting up her own organisation. This has released a lot of energy within the Amida sangha and a number of new initiatives are germinating, so the coming year promises to be rather full and exciting. It has also entailed me moving my base of operations to London - another promising development.
Most gratifying, however, are the many friendships that have deepened or been born in this time. In my case, my spiritual life and my close connections with others overlap to such a degree that I do seem to be able to say that friendship is my practice and my practice is friendship. Where the lives of many people break down into work and leisure, in my case the boundary between the two is hard to distinguish. Yesterday I went with three close friends to a sacred spot at the centre of this island. Today I will meet with other good friends and plan future work together here in Spain. Via the internet I am in daily contact with many good friends back in UK and in other parts of the world as we share and generate ideas and plan activities for the year ahead. On the one hand, all of this is work. On the other hand, none of it is just work and all the people that I have just mentioned are those with whom I share my life whether there is any "work" to do or not.
This, of course, is how it once was for all people. It is modern life that has carved our existence up into functional units and made us into cogs in imaginary social machines in order to become economically efficient. I, personally, am not very economically efficient, but I do have a wonderful life, and I think this is essentially because there is more love in each of the encounters that I experience than there would be if I lived a more conventional life. Again, it is part of my mission to, as and when I can, liberate other people into just such a life in whatever degree is right for them, so I also have the satisfaction of living a life that is itself congruent with my own values and goals. In all these respects I feel very fortunate - blessed.
It has been a year that has included quite a number of struggles, but, all in all, a very blessed one.