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last retreat note (are you eyeballin' me boy?)

The Lama gave this kind of brilliant teaching today of a certain kind he sometimes does. He just sort of lays out the whole Buddhist path and how it relates to a modern westerner trying to do it sincerely. I so wish you could have been there to hear it.

It reminds me that to be a dharma practitioner and practice these strange 1300 year old (or so) teachings where some of the time one meditates on 4-armed white men of light sitting on a lotus moon seat is not such a silly, eccentric thing to do. In so many ways it is quite sensible, quite complete, and quite useful for working with the situation of the world one finds oneself in.

I sat next to the Lama today at lunch and stared at him, kind of marvelling at what he can lay down and the way he can handle questions about it. He looked up at me and stared at me for a long time. It reminded me of a time when I worked at the Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort in Colorado, in the kitchen.

There was this guy who lived there with his wife and 16 year-old daughter. He was sort of this stubborn old latter-day cowboy. He was a brusque, surly, alcoholic old coot who I suspect his wife and daughter secretly thought was a fool.

He had served the role of prep-cook/dishwasher before me, and evidently kept the kitchen quite spic and span, according to Jeff the Chef. So he would come into the kitchen every now and again and supervise me and make sure I was washing the walls right and so forth. He was honestly kind of fascinating and at that early point, I did have a fair amount of respect for him.

So one day he's there in the kitchen talking to Jeff the Chef and I'm looking at him intently and he turns around and talks to me about cleaning the kitchen...and I wasn't looking away. At all. It went on for about 10 seconds, with me patently refusing to drop my gaze, and then he stops what he was saying and pauses for a moment.

"Are you eyeballin' me, boy?"

I didn't know people said that anymore. I realized at that moment that I had been living in polite city society for too long, and this was in some ways a wake-up call. On one hand I could have continued to psychically stand up for myself and then said very cleverly, "Yup."

But then I realized I didn't really have the force to back it up, and that he might decide to very un-psychically smack me upside the head. I didn't say, "no suh," or anything, but I did look at the floor and avoid prolonged eye contact in the future.

I finally looked down from the Lama's gaze as well...but for much different reasons.