A final walk

I just finished leading three retreats in the UK and am headed home tomorrow morning. We began with a 5-day residential retreat at Swarthmoor Hall, the "cradle" of the Quaker movement in the Lake District where George Fox established his home in the 17th century with the help of Margaret Fell. After the residential retreat, I traveled to Sheffield and met with the Nothing Special sangha. We enjoyed a wonderful day of sitting, study and Enquiry (the correct spelling here in England). I then lead one-day Introduction to Zen event for them, once again in a very old and venerable Quaker meeting house in the heart of Sheffield. This was followed by a 3-day, non-residential retreat back north in Lancaster hosted at the Quaker meeting house by the Nothing Missing sangha. The Quaker houses in Sheffield and Lancaster both date from the  17th century.  It was a curious thing to find myself over and over again in these very old sites where people have been sitting in silence for so many years.  Looking through the book of Quaker Faith and Practice, I came upon so many teachings from Quakers who, through the centuries, reflected precisely the teachings we find in Zen—discover your own deepest truths, turn toward each moment and each relationship to reveal the "light" (your true nature), do not rely on scriptures but trust immediate experience to open in silence, sit with others, allow your small self to drop away in silent practice, and turn your energies to serving others who need help. It was an amazingly rich time for me and I am grateful for all the people who worked so hard to organize the retreats and who took such good care of the participants. It was a grace-filled two weeks. This morning, on my final day before flying home, Josh Gifford and Trudy Johnston, the leaders of the sangha in Lancaster, took me on a walk along the tidal flats of the Irish Sea at Silverdale. The cold and blustery wind was in our faces as we walked.  Threatening showers approached from the northern hills of the Lake District. The vastness of this seascape and wildness of the landscape was inspiring, just as wholehearted practitioners had been an inspiration to me in the retreats over the past two weeks.  The three of us walked in gratitude for all the people who, over 300 years ago, would walk many miles along these same shores in order to meet other friends to hear George Fox speak. The wildland, the receding swirls of the tides, and the gray sky all came together as a grounded testament to the dedication and silence of those early Quakers. And as we walked, I remembered walking on the western shore of Japan with my Zen teacher, Blanche Hartman many years ago, looking out over the Sea of Japan toward China, in the footsteps of our Zen ancestors who would walk on pilgrimage to meet a true teacher or, like Dogen, who crossed that very sea, seeking the Way. May we all discover our Way, together.

Silverdale 2