~my experience, insights, and observations~
It took me two days to get settled in. During that time the sits were extremely difficult, which is strange because I typically have a lot of ease with my sits. I found myself restless-even resisting being on the cushion. In addition to that, as I began to relax those first few days I found myself extremely exhausted. There was one day where I stayed in my room and slept all day in between meals. You don’t realize how much stress can affect your body until you slow down enough to pay attention.I hadn’t seen how much my daily life had been draining me lately.
After I got settled in I found myself fully enjoying the experience of being at the retreat. It was a small group, maybe less than 50 people there. There are usually about 100 to 200. The small group made an intimate setting even more intimate. My mother came along with me and of course we were the only brown spots there (not including the one Hispanic woman). Everyone else was middle-aged and white. It was a small reminder of how privileged Western Buddhism is. But I digress. I won’t get on that rant as I’ve already addressed the topic in my past posts.Regardless, it was a beautiful group of people to be amongst. Everyone was very supportive, providing a safe space to practice.
You can’ meditate for six days straight without having some insights and realizations.
Realization 1: At the beginning of the retreat I found myself extremely irritated. About everything. The stupidest things. Lack of patience and irritation is usually not my way of being. However it is my way of being while I am at work. I realized that I had adopted my work attitude and carried it with me even while I am out of the office. I’m glad I saw that about myself. That negative energy is not something that I want to cultivate, at work or outside of it so I spent a considerable amount of time letting go of that mind-set.
Realization 2: Letting go is still a difficult thing for me and I must continue to work with that.
Realization 3: I am fearless. (I am actually going to elaborate on this in a separate post). I am in a much better place mentally and emotionally than I was this time a year ago.
Insight 1: During the retreat we sign up for what are called work meditations. They are basically chores we do once a day in order to help keep things running. The chores range anywhere from helping out in the kitchen to ringing the meditation bell to sweeping the cabin stairs. I signed up to be a pot washer. Thirty minutes during lunch I would go in the kitchen and wash dishes along with another retreatant who was my partner. The idea is to be mindful while you are working and over the days I noticed that I was allowing her to dictate the flow. For example, one of us would wash while the other rinsed and dried off the pots. There were days where I would allow her to pick which job she wanted and go along with it. There were also times where she was quicker at washing than I was at rinsing and drying so I found myself rushing my job in order to keep up.
What this revealed to me is that I am too quick to relinquish power to others. I have a habit of allowing others to dictate the interaction/relationship (that boundaries thing again). Once I understood that about myself I made it a point to change the dynamic of the interaction. I stopped rushing my job, taking my time and leaving the dishes to pile up in the sink as my partner quickly worked to finish the task. But as my partner noticed that I had slowed down she, in turn, started doing the same. I was pretty amazed that such a subtle shift on my part could have the power to change how she interacted with me. I didn’t even have to say anything or be forceful. It was a very empowering realization.
Insight 2: It was interesting for me to have my mother there. She’s not Buddhist, meditation is a foreign concept to her , and she’s never been on a retreat. At first I found myself looking after her. Making sure she was ok. That she understood all that was expected and not expected and that she knew what to do. Then I realized that I needed leave her be. I’ve always had the role of caretaker in my family, something that has been a huge burden for me at times. I knew there was no way that I could get the full experience of the retreat if I was going to spend the entire time focusing on how my mother was getting along so I let that go. She ended up doing very well and she enjoyed herself a lot. And in the process I learned that when we let go of control things will work out on their own.
Dharma Talk Quotes
“You have all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare. Don’t mix them.”
“The joy that isn’t shared dies very young.”
“How can a troubled mind know the way?”
“Can we practice contentment?”
“Speak what’s truthful and useful.”
“Does my work support my practice?”
Overall I left the retreat more centered, calm, and focused than I have been in a long time. I was able to reconnect with my spiritual practice and remember why it is that I do what I do. I am grateful for the experience, the lessons, and the insights.