Long Walks On Leafy Streets

5/17/2019 Miramar, San Juan, Puerto Rico
I am writing this from Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, a monastery / retreat center nestled in foothills of the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. My parents and I are staying here for a few days. We did the same thing last year, around the same time, just after the conclusion of the academic year. At this time of the year I am so exhausted that for about two weeks I feel like I don't have the energy to do anything. In 2017 I went camping for a couple of days but that itself takes some preparation. So last year I got the idea to stay here and it turned out to be the right thing at the right time. This center is one of many founded by Swami Dayananda, a teacher in the Advaita tradition of Hinduism. I wrote about him and my relationship with Advaita in May of last year.

The monastery has a beautiful open area with meadows and a walking trail.
I walked on it this afternoon in very pleasant sunshine. I plan to do my Saturday morning run on it tomorrow. I have by now completely recovered from the chest injury that had been bothered me earlier. It took a month and a half but every day I felt it decrease a little bit and thankfully I managed to not aggravate it before it healed completely. It is a great pleasure to be able to run fast or run long distances. I particularly enjoyed running along the Rock Creek from my home to Dupont circle two weeks ago, when the forest was full of greenery and the creek was full of water from recent rains.

While this afternoon's walk was pleasant, it was also a time of worry. I just heard that a good friend of mine, someone who had been like a mentor and an inspiration, is in the hospital with a serious illness. I was talking to Nicole about it while walking and she said she happened to be thinking about how fragile life was. As I had written in the previous posts, this is something that has been on my mind quite bit lately.

No matter how much one meditates or how much one understands the temporary nature of life, when it comes to someone that you love, it is very hard to accept that nothing can last. In this regard something that Thich Nhat Hanh said could be very helpful. He has a very beautiful way of explaining these most difficult aspects of life. He asks us to realize that nothing is born and nothing ever dies. He asks us to see the cloud in the rain and in the flower that blooms after the rain. So when you die even though your physical body becomes inert you continue in everything that you ever touched.

The precise term he uses to describe this is that we are "inter-are." In other words, this whole universe is just one being. All of life, every moment of it, is a manifestation of one being, just as all the waves of the ocean are a manifestation of the water in the ocean. Each wave is created and destroyed but it has no separate life or self as such. That doesn't mean the wave doesn't exist. It just means that it is simply a part of the ocean. I think all great teachers from all the different spiritual traditions, when you really look deeply into the essence of their teaching, say the same thing. We are all part of one being, something bigger than our little "self." When you are able to feel this oneness and "emptiness" as the truth, it takes away a lot of the fear and anxiety that comes from knowing the transitory nature of life.

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