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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
38 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2017 the path Joining in the Cries of the Universe by Barbara Rhodes (Zen Master Soeng Hyang) In January 2003, I began a one hundred-day solitary retreat. It was my third such retreat and I had waited seventeen years for the opportunity to practice this way again. During the third week, I had what would be my last menstrual period. I experienced the most severe contractions and abundant bleeding I’d ever had, except for the time my first baby miscarried at six months. At 2 a.m., forty-nine days into the retreat, I read this quote from the mystic poet Rumi: “This rain weeping and sun burning twine together to help us grow. Keep your intelligence white-hot and your grief glistening, so your life will stay fresh.” I climbed into my sleeping bag, and with a warm brick on my stomach, I cried. Away from all my family and responsibilities, away from schedules, expectations, and distractions, I felt a depth of grief I have never felt before. There was something about being cradled in the sleeping bag, the cabin, the woods, and this Buddhist practice that allowed me to cry until my heart ached. But because of the tremendous support of the retreat, I didn’t need to protect myself or anyone else—there was no self. We have all heard the directive to “go with it”—to go with whatever feel- ings come up for us in our lives. Well, that night I went with it with no brakes applied until I very naturally coasted into Kwan Se Um Bosal, the ancient chant that simply means “Listen to the cries of the universe.” Just listen. There is no “my grief” or “your grief.” Grief becomes just grief. Grief brings us to awaken- ing, to our vow—our vow to wake up and listen. That night, I finally forgave myself for not being able to hold my baby until she was old enough to breathe on her own. I realized her breathing has really never started or stopped. Here was white-hot intelligence and glistening grief. Here was Kwan Se Um Bosal. How may I help? Summer 2004 Ruth’s Uncompromising Way by Nina Wise For many years, I made biannual visits to Dhamma Dena, Ruth Denison’s rus- tic retreat center in Joshua Tree, California, for two-week silent retreats. One night, perhaps at my fourth retreat, a deep fear caught me in its grip. I duti- fully followed the sensations of panic as they crawled through my belly and tightened my chest and constricted my throat. Unable to manage the anxiety, I crawled out of my bunk and in my pajamas made my way to Ruth’s trailer. I