There are usually three vases of flowers on the lowest tier of the shrine. I don't know who does the flowers, but he or she is imaginative and skilled: there are always new arrangements, often striking. Unusual flowers, surprising combinations. Odd to think of how long I have been practicing at KCC, and that I should have no idea who puts those flowers there.
Last night was astonishing though. Bare branches snaking everywhere, full of white blossoms. All leafless -- just nets of brown willow-ish wands sprinkled with vivid white dots, yards of them. As my eyes crossed and unfocused, the white petals turned into a pointillist dream against the red drapery of the shrine. Glass and ceramic vases gleamed, shifted; the candles glittered and slowly changed places as my eyes crossed more, crossed less. Twice during the hour a little petal, half the size of my little fingernail, fell, slipped and tumbled through the air, landed in the scattering of petals below.
Beautiful. And the burning in my left knee was beautiful. Someone's stomach -- was it mine? I don't think so, but I don't know -- gurgled in slow time with their breath, an extraordinary crisp unsound, like a frenchman pronouncing the letter 'p' -- barely there. A lovely sound. akin to the unsound of a hoop of bubble-soap popping. With every breath the scent of the blossoms touched the back of my throat, very softly.
Thoughts bubbled up and went away. Behind it all was my own breathing, never lost. The knot of muscle in my lower back, a long discomfort, growing as the hour went by, like a low-banked fire: my breath would go into it, come out. Go into it, come out. I could have wept with the beauty of it all. That of course was one ot the thoughts that bubbled up. Kiss it goodbye. The next thought comes; kiss it goodbye as well.
It isn't what meditation is for: it isn't even a sign of a particularly fruitful meditation session, but sometimes shamatha is a heart-shakingly beautiful experience. Almost a guilty pleasure.