"It is not a an intellectual affair but when the heart enters into the mind, the mind has quite a different quality. It is really, then limitless, not only in its capacity to think, to act efficiently, but also in its sense of living in a vast space where you are part of everything." J. Krishnamurti
Most people would assume signing on for a 30 day silent meditation retreat is about the pursuit of a peaceful experience.... but what you may not realize, is that along with the possibilities of observing and experiencing pleasant, comfortable, and joy filled mind states, comes the likelihood of facing more difficult emotions and habitual patterns that we have employed since we were little.
The type or practice that I do is considered Vipassana or insight meditation where one observes thought patterns with the hopes that in watching them, you will come to notice their grip on you and begin to question their truth and in turn lead you to deeper realizations that can bring more peace and happiness. For me, I can sometimes see the neurotic patterns and even laugh at myself, which, seems to ease the attachment I originally had on them. It is quite remarkable to catch sight of the stories our minds create and the knee jerk reactions or emotions and let it be just that without actually responding and then seeing if there are other possibilities that arise.
While "meditating," I like to dub the roles I play in my personal drama the victim, the villain and the hero as I watch the stories I create and recreate. It is always a welcomed relief when bliss and peace decide to make a guest appearance. I am often convinced that while sitting, I have the busiest and most boring mind of anyone in the meditation hall! I mean really, if you are going to repeat the same type of narrative over and over like a 3 year old wanting to watch the same exact section of a Disney film or have you read them the same bed time story book over and over again, couldn't it at least be thinking about quantum physics or how to solve the world's hunger problem? Then someone next of me starts to snore and I think, "Well, at least I am not sleeping!" Because comparing ourselves to others always brings us peace! Not!!!!
Some enlightening moments: While lying in the meditation hall one evening early in the trip, I heard the beeping of a watch alarm go off a few times. My mind went to, "Wow, why won't that person turn off their alarm?" And when it happened again feeling a little more agitated I thought, "Maybe they don't know how to turn it off." The next time it was going non stop and I was feeling more anger and judged, "How rude! You would think that if they didn't know how to turn it off they would just leave the hall!!!!" After perseverating on that for a while, I think I then ignored it and went on to ruminate about something else. The next night during a "peaceful" meditation I heard the beep again and noticed that it actually was pretty sporadic and that it was coming from multiple directions which led me to the realization that the sound was actually coming from a watch alarm sounding insect of some sort. I really had to laugh at myself every time I tuned into it over the next 28 days or so!
Another example was reading a post on the bulletin board where notes and replies could be privately posted to teachers or the managers. Someone wrote an anonymous inquiry asking, "Can someone explain why it sounds like we are living in a war zone?" Remember the peaceful description I wrote in my last blog post? Well there were occasional dynamite blastings that I hardly noticed from someone breaking up rocks down the way. My first reaction was, "Well that seems like a bit aggressive! And why wouldn't someone post it directly to a teacher and sign it instead of needing to make sure we all got and merged with how annoyed he or she was?" Then I thought about it for another minute and considered, if someone was in the military service they would likely be much more tuned into the sound of an explosion and could actually find it quite traumatizing. Now I don't know if that story was accurate or not either, but considering it allowed me to notice my immediate judgement and drop it and the need to know more about the story.
The cheating I described was that the retreats were actually designed to be 3 nine day retreats with a day and a 1/2 off in between. I had every intention of staying in silence in between.... but not everyone did.... So during the transition interesting people were connecting and meeting each other and I caved each time. Actually, I was really pleased with my decision each time.... there was plenty of time to stay inward and reflect the other 27 days of retreat! Trust me!
Well, that is just a little glimpse into the almost impossible to explain, diverse, remarkable, challenging, delightful experience I had on retreat. The retreat I am on now is very different and involves inquiries, where someone has a question, poses it to the teacher and they explore it together until an understanding is reached, along side of small group discussions about other dharma teachings. I am much more in my head here but am enjoying this as well!
Sorry, still no time for photos, but hopefully the next time will do a blog with just that!
Happy Valentines Day! Sending heart filled love all of your ways!