Here at Shambhala, mule deer are the indigenous beings and humans are the guests. Herds as large as 40 will frequently be hanging out by my window, checking me out as I go about my business. They seem to have no fear of humans, perhaps because this is a Buddhist meditation center and Buddhists are peaceful co-habitators.
I have walked with Kai as close as 6 feet from these mule deer and they seem entirely calm, going about their work of foraging small plant life in the spring moisture of a land strung with tiny streams like garlands of life and freshness.
These deer inspire me to calm down a bit. They model the kind of relaxation of which Kai-the-dog is so famous.
My retreat is almost over. I too have found a little herd while here. Each day I sit for the three meals with three new friends. We found each other here and have become fast and good friends. One is a Buddhist scholar and retired corporate CFO from Bangkok, one is a retired executive from Colorado and one a psychotherapist from Vienna, Austria. Each day we check in about our meditation sessions and our hikes. We share “aha moments” and we laugh a lot about human frailties. The four of us love each other after only a few days and that inspires me to realize how easy it is to make friends if one is willing to risk the vulnerability.
Like the mule deer, we had spent a day noticing each other. Then a second day sitting near each other … and finally we began to speak. We agreed on some things and disagreed on others. We shared life-technology and offered each other tips about meditation. We discussed the food, the weather and the various hiking paths.
Like mule deer, we live our lives grazing. Sure, there are mountain lions and avalanches out there, but they are few. We live and then we die. And in between we graze, gaining nourishment from the land and wisdom from those with whom we share our lives.
I think the question for me today is this: What shall I do to place myself more often in the position of vulnerability such that I make friends like I did this week? It will require risk. It will require self-offering. It will require the risk of failure and even of being eaten by a mountain lion. But like the mule deer, I think we were designed to be together.