SESSHIN AT THE BLACK SCORPION
Mary Jotai Rosendale
Bats and cats and scorpions in the Zendo. Shooting stars before dawn. A Dokusan line warmed by a crackling log fire. Wild turkeys and shamans with baskets of mountain herbs wandering past the gate. And the all-pervading silence that seems to rise from the ground and hold you.
I remember vividly the first night I arrived in the cobble-stoned Temple courtyard. I stepped out of the car into the stillness. I turned to a fellow practitioner who had arrived before me. I said nothing, but I guess my face said it all. “I know,” she said. “Isn’t it amazing!”
I’ve been back there four times since and the Scorpion never loses its ability to enchant. The Temple compound sits at the end of a dirt road--more a rutted track--90 minutes south of Mexico City. The nearest town is Tepoztlan, a bustling old market town. This entire area is dotted by ancient temples and pyramids. It is recognized by many spiritual practices around the world as a place of deep energy.
It would be easy to romanticize the Scorpion. The birds are vibrantly colorful and sing more sweetly than at home. The butterflies truly are twice the size of L.A. butterflies, and the night sky rivals that of Yosesmite. But it’s also true that the electrical power may go out without warning, usually in the middle of cooking lunch for 20 hungry Buddhists. Water has to be trucked in, and every piece of fruit and every vegetable have to be painstakingly triple-washed before eating.
A Scorpion sesshin is a unique experience. In the afternoon sitting blocks, the shoji doors to the Zendo are often pulled open to let in the breeze along with the sound of the waterfall in the courtyard and maybe a passing cowbell or two. But they’re just as likely to let in a curious cat, dog or more exotic critter that might find itself in the neighborhood.
One of the joys of coming back to the Scorpion is the opportunity to connect with the Mexican part of the Hazy Moon Sangha. They are deeply committed practitioners, eager for the opportunity to sit with others. We come from very different cultures, but for a week or two we become one Sangha. We cook together in the large sunny kitchen, do yoga under the trees, work side by side – with or without a common language – and on the final day of sesshin we all end up in the same place. Unwilling to leave, unable to stay.
My favorite Scorpion time is just after 5 a.m. The night sky is still brilliant, but the roosters are stirring. I stand on the deck of the Temple in the darkness and watch the shooting stars and listen to the mountainside wake up. The words of an old song run through my head: “Morning has broken, like the first morning.” The beauty of the Scorpion is that each morning really does feel like not just a new morning but a new beginning.
about our beautiful sister temple near Tepoztlan, Mexico. Please be in touch if you would like updates on retreats at the Black Scorpion.
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