New Year's Eve, 2004 found me spending New Year's Eve in a Buddhist monastery in Livingston Manor NY with a friend for an overnight meditation. It was right after the tsunami that devastated Thailand and thus the 24 hours silent meditation. That night was unusually warm, and all the snow had melted. I had been looking forward to seeing the stars since we were so far away from the city lights. The part of New Jersey I had been living in was just 12 miles west of the Big Apple so it was never dark. I had been studying tai chi and knew what meditation was but this was to be more intense and focused. Sitting for hours at a time was more difficult than sitting for an hour every night. I was excited to try.
At eleven pm, we went outdoors layered in our winter gear and our robes and started circle the bell an chant the Sutra of Compassion. At one point in the sutra, the person at the tree stump pulled it back and released it hard to ring the bell, a booming sound. Round and round we went, chanting in Japanese. Ringing the bell, when it was my turn, was remarkable. Vibration up through my arm into my head. Echoes reverberating. A terrific jolt of the physical to join with the emotional and spiritual.
The death and suffering of all those people, the suffering of their families all over the world, I thought I could feel it for a single moment, a connection with something beyond me and this planet. It was a way of transcending the here and the now and joining with the God or the Great Spirit or Mother Nature and becoming something lighter and brighter than mere human.
At nearly midnight, my friend nudged me. "Look up." I looked up to see a patch of sky being revealed one tiny bit at a time. The portal expanded and exposed a thousand pinpoints of light sparkling and blinking at us below. By midnight, the sky showed us her moon and stars and we rang the bell in thanks of the gift. By the light of day, everything seemed back to normal but not really. I was changed, enhanced somehow by the connection with all that is real and true.