Article by Wayne Coger from the Winter 2007 Newsletter.
Recently a friend asked about the future of the Center, wondering, “How will we deal with this period of transition?” Meaning, perhaps, that the future of the Center is in doubt or even in jeopardy. But when is the future for any of us, or for any organization, certain? We like to think that we can map the transition form a remembered past to a projected future, but is this really so? That events never follow a completely predictable course is the beauty and aliveness of this world — dynamically unfolding and changing.
And yet this is a frequent and recurring concern, the continuity of something we call the Springwater Center. Even before we found land in Springwater, people were questioning whether the Center would survive. I vividly remember an informal get together in early 1983 at our rental house on Mt. Hope Avenue in Rochester and the fears that people expressed about our radical approach to the work of meditation and our dependence on the energy of one person.
After all these years, why do we fear for the survival of this place? Most of us love the beauty of the land and the building and we love coming to retreats, or at least knowing that they are available. And we cherish the opportunity to work with Toni, fearing that some day this will no longer be possible.
Is it clear that the fears appearing in thought and image are just that — thoughts and images? There may indeed be suffering around these thoughts and images, but what we foresee — the fearful scenarios — are not real, and what we call “the future” is thought. Does seeing this, seeing the insubstantial quality of thought, loosen its hold? When thoughts of the future, when apprehensions about what might be, dominate the organism it is as if we are caught in a trap, in a tight and suffocating place. Seeing these thoughts as thoughts, not getting caught in the stories that they generate, is like cranking open the window or opening the door. There is light and air and we can breathe fully and easily.
Perhaps the way to deal with what is to come is to look with real and fresh interest at what is here. In this interest there can be an easing of the need for certainty, for knowing what is to come. Looking calmly and carefully at thoughts and fears as they come up there is space for everything — for the sounds of wind or of stillness, for the feel of sun and the sight of clouds — for whatever is here, without judgment or discrimination. And if there is judgment, then so be it — this too can be seen.
It may be enticing on some level to imagine problems and then to search for possible solutions. There may even be some pleasure in imagining difficult circumstances — and in seeing oneself as the victim of these circumstances. The sense of oneself as the victim, as one who deserves pity, can be pleasurable — in a very superficial and ultimately painful way. But isn’t it immensely more satisfying — and energizing — to be with things as they present themselves? In this meeting there is no need to become the sufferer or play the victim.
In being fully here, there is also a possibility for true creativity. This creativity is neither mine or yours — there is simply an energy to respond. Problems and situations reveal themselves in open attention and an appropriate response can arise in this attention. In being fully here — listening to each other and letting go of our opinions and defenses — amazing possibilities and opportunities come to light. Opportunities not only to solve or meet problems, but to see how we function in relationship with each other — to see the limitations of the thought-created world of me and my worries, opinions and defenses.
The work of quiet meditation and inquiry, the work of the Springwater Center is truly a labor of love. And this work is here, not in promises of an imaginary future. This me, this shaky and insecure sense of an isolated self, depends on constant reassurance. In being here — wholly, vibrantly and lovingly here — there is nothing to fear. We are not separate from this land, from the beauty of fields and forests nor from what we call each other.