The Opening, St Andrews 2003

The Opening, St Andrews 2003

Early on the first morning of my first retreat
Thich Nhat Hanh led several hundred of us,
in silent walking meditation, to the sea.
At first I felt a bit strange,
but then I figured out that what was good enough
for a world-renowned spiritual teacher
was probably OK for me too.

The way led us past silent university buildings
and then, on a public footpath, we crossed a golf course:
the world-renowned Old Course at St Andrews,
the home of golf, where the Open Championship started.
Even this early in the morning there was great busyness
as men worked with machines to cut the grass,
and others waited to tee off by the clubhouse.

Presumably the sight of a long file of people,
led by a diminutive figure in brown robes,
silently and meditatively crossing their hallowed golf course
gave them pause for thought.
Certainly from my new perspective I found
the energy and devotion they invest in their practice
of hitting small white balls into holes with sticks
to be a little odd.

Thay led us to the beach, where he invited a bell,
and we all sat for a while in contemplation.
In this opening moment,
the waves crashed lazily on the shore,
the breeze blew freshly,
and the sand we sat on was gritty.
Later on, we were all late for breakfast.

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