Going offline is not very taxing for me. I have done it for months at a stretch at Tassajara; last summer when I was living there, since I was among those doing the town trips, I would head into civilisation once or twice a month for provisions, and I would check my email, but often very little else.
At Wilbur last weekend, none of the people I asked were missing their phones. There was a general relief about being away from all the distraction – even if one or two people seemed to be finding it hard to slow down and drink in the silence – and it gave people some spaciousness to enjoy their sitting. I did get asked, as I usually do when I am teaching at Tassajara, how to take that spacious feeling back into their busy lives. I usually say something along the lines of developing our sitting practice so that it is robust enough to move away from the quiet of the cushion to the higher pace of other parts of our lives; trusting – without any cast-iron guarantees – that sitting does bring us benefits as we move through the world.
This time, I stayed until Monday morning. It was very interesting to observe how the energy of the place changed as most people set off back home on Sunday afternoon. The day had been hot but windy, and the wind had brought much smoke from the rampaging Clayton Fire in the next county, as well as gently falling ash. I felt curious to know how the Soberanes Fire was moving if the weather was hotter down by Tassajara as well. Someone had just written to me from the monastery asking what my prediction might be for when it would arrive. Memories of 2008, where the fire took its time approaching, then came rushing in all of a sudden. There was also a little pang in knowing that I was missing the first weekend of the English Premier League football season, and I was keen to see the dramas and upsets when I got back.
Perhaps my most memorable time of the weekend was when I walked with my camera up to the Fountain of Life as the sun dropped in the sky, with murky colours I remember very clearly from smoky days at Tassajara, deep red reflections in the creek, subdued light on the hills. I sat in the little tub that has been built out there, for the brief period when the sun came below the clouds before it sank behind the valley side.
The Fountain of Life, which gushes every forty minutes or so – in fits and starts
The little tub which is filled with water from the Fountain of Life