I dreamt of meeting Jack Kornfield, in an alternate reality. However, in the world of my dream, Jack was not Jack as he had come to be known. He was still kind and gentle. His mannerisms were the same. But somehow, he didn’t have any idea he was a senior Buddhist meditation teacher. Despite my insistence at who he was, he pleaded ignorance. Instead, he repeated he was a merchant (I don’t even know what he was selling in my dream!). I reminded this other Jack that he had met the Dalai Lama and many important spiritual leaders. “Other Jack” shook his head and simply said no, that was not who he was. I eventually left him, feeling disappointed I hadn”t found the person who had led me through a masterful week of mediation and storytelling.
I was drawn to a retreat at Kripalu in April 2016, led by Jack Kornfield and two of his senior teachers. I’d read some of his books but hadn’t studied his work intensely. I knew enough to be curious about what else he might teach.
What I learned resonated with me so much I am still processing it, 6 months later. I was especially drawn to the meditations called Big Sky Bell Meditation, Luminous Being, compassion and another one on lovingkindness. I haven’t written about it until now because I feel limited in my ability to express what I am trying to integrate and internalize. The teachings have deeper meaning as I go through my everyday (small animal clinical practice, my mother-in-law’s death from cancer, my Mom’s recovery from acute kidney failure, building a house with my husband). I find myself living Jack’s wisdom, as I go through each of these experiences.
I think my dream was telling me how time spent with Jack could only happen once. Even if I went to see him speak again, it would not be the same. He would not be the same. Despite my insistence at who I thought he should be, Jack would have changed into someone else, in another time. In actuality, it would be me that had changed, as well as my perception of him.
At the end of the week long retreat, Jack told us, “You are more tender than you know. Give yourself time to reintegrate.” Although an eager student for all his teachings so far, I dismissed this advice at first.
“I’m what? No, not me!”, I thought.
I quickly realized the retreat had left me quite open-hearted and vulnerable. The people who sat silently beside me in meditation were now my friends and I would miss them! Swami Kripaku’s meditation garden felt exceptionally quiet and sacred as I walked about. When I touched the oldest tree on the grounds of Kripalu, tears filled my eyes as I felt the sense of time and how long the Camperdown Elm had stood watch over her spot. I was bewildered at this change but I didn’t fight it. Gradually I let myself return to reality, forever touched by this experience. Which is why it can never be repeated again. Jack was who he was at that moment in time. I was there to learn what he had to say then and only then.