I parked my bike in Japan and flew to San Francisco (December 2002). A friend picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a Buddhist community a couple of hours driving north past the Golden Gate bridge (in Ukiah).

The annual “Chan” (Zen in Chinese) meditation retreat (I also had done it the previous winter) was very demanding. It began each day at 4 am and ended at midnight. Fourteen hours of meditation, with periods of fifteen minutes in between each sitting that I employed to do some walking, stretching and yoga.

The three weeks passed peacefully, mostly under the patter of the raindrops that winters usually bring to northern California, inviting one to meditate, to imitate nature in its hibernation.

By then I could sit in full lotus throughout the whole retreat, a feat unthinkable just a few years ago. The first days were of adaptation to the schedule and to the leg pain, unlike that on the bike caused by immobility.

The mind also needed some time to get used to the change and to realize that its objects of attention were no longer external, that the traffic I should pay attention to were not vehicles with combustion engines outside, but thoughts and emotions inside, some quite flammable.

Gradually, body and mind settled down to a dynamic (or I should say static), where the days went as if without discontinuity among them.

At the end of the three weeks of retreat, I felt rejuvenated; ready to return to Japan to finally start the pilgrimage of the 88 temples around the island of Shikoku, but “something” would interfere with my plans, as we shall see in the next post.