Okay, I know that from the Buddhist perspective, nothing is “I, me or mine”, but too bad – this is my rock. It sits on the front lawn of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. For the 99% of the time that I’m not on retreat, I loan it out to other yogis for their spiritual use. My rock is about two feet tall, nicely rounded (in an irregular sort of way) and is accompanied by some lichens.
A big part of retreats at IMS is walking meditation. We walk to be present, to feel the movements of the foot, not to look around, or to get somewhere. Most people choose a back-and-forth route, say 30 paces long. I like circles. On my first retreat day, I noticed that IMS has a lovely curved driveway between the building and the lawn, leading to the two entrances of the property. I decided to walk on the driveway from one entrance to the other, and to complete my circle on the lawn, right next to the hedge that borders the road. Nice big oval, actually.
A few yards in from one of the entrances, after I ducked my head under the branches of a tree, there sat a rock. I did look around – right at it. Curious that it’s just sitting here surrounded by grass. On my next loop, I looked some more, saw the lichens. After a few more trips, I heard myself say “Stop”. Said quietly, no urgency. And so I stood, with the rock slightly to my right. After a minute or two of “Why am I doing this?” I was off again. And sometime soon, I found myself bending at the waist and touching the rock with my right hand. I really didn’t feel anything, but there I was on each loop, hand against stone for perhaps 20 seconds.
During some period of walking meditation on that first retreat, hand against stone was joined by a single silent word: Jody. And on succeeding loops, other words: Neal, Nona, Leslie, all kids, all those who are depressed, all those who are in physical pain … And then what has turned into the final touch:
May you be free from danger
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you live with ease
I’ve been on three retreats at IMS, and each period of walking meditation has included my rock, and the countless human beings whom I’ve wished well. I’ve had the thought “Do something different”, but no, I don’t want to. It’s a tradition.