So the key was stuck in my door today and I couldn’t leave my room. I’d wanted to go upstairs, on the terrace of the small hotel’s dining room, where I could sit and meditate while gazing at a luminous sky.

Now I was stuck sitting at the little terrace of my room, which faces a dark mass of trees that were swaying in the wind. The monsoon rain was falling all around. I opened my heart to be present to this.


Buddha and his disciples, I thought, stayed in their forest hermitage and meditated for three months during the Indian monsoon season. From their little huts, they would have experienced what I’m experiencing: dense forest branches swaying, the sound of heavy rain on the earth, the cool air, a barking dog, the smell of damp leaves, sounds of a nearby drummer and more distant sounds of music in the village.

Like me, they would have been present to the experience; simply aware and present.

I sat. Unmoving.


Soon, a large monkey scrambled onto the big tree branch close to my terrace. He’d seen the open terrace doors and knew there would be something to eat if he could come in. In a commanding pose, he looked at me. I looked back.

Time stopped.

Gradually, he moved on.


More monkeys came, as the rain pounded the earth, but they moved around on distant branches. Letting them play, I sat, unmoving.

The drumming reminded me of dancing. Did the monks think about their sisters, or, a girlfriend from their past? Did they get tired of the pounding rain, day after day, and the dark forest view from their hut?

Did they remember sitting with Buddha?

Were they, like me, imagining Buddha sitting in front of them?


No matter how dark the trees or sky, his radiant presence illuminates the mind.

In his presence, all the teachings are here. The truth of suffering and how pervasive and inescapable it is. The utter helplessness and sorrowfulness within life. The truth of absolute freedom from suffering. The noble path that brings us through the dungeon’s doorway to freedom.


And here, now, breathing out.

Feeling the deep relaxation within the body.

Thoughts appearing and then moving on, like clouds.

Simply present.


A gentle smile.

Christine Longaker

Hospice and spiritual care pioneer and author of "Facing Death and Finding Hope: A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying," Christine Longaker is writing a book on Self-Compassion, and developing trainings and an online course based on the book.

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