Since I’ve got home from the meditation retreat, I’ve mentioned some of my experiences there in this blog but I’ve never looked it directly in the eye and discovered what’s true for me two weeks later. I’ve been scared to do that. Not afraid of what I’d find but rather of being misinterpreted. I’m sure you’re all smart people out there in WordPress land but I expect that very few of you have the context to hold twelve weeks of silence.
How I struggle to express myself here. What’s true, Bruce? Well, here goes …
One hundred of us sat in the meditation hall, did walking meditation, ate together in silence and listened to the teachers’ wisdom. Although I didn’t make eye contact with my fellow yogis, I could feel them. Plus I looked at them from afar. Many were hurting – physically, emotionally and/or spiritually. My heart went out to them. As I quieted in meditation, I felt love waft out from me. Peace too. Not always but often. As the weeks wore on, I heard more and more folks sniffing in the hall – some near me and some way up towards the front of the room. I sensed that much of this was in response to my energy. Perhaps I’m deluded about this. Maybe they all had colds. But the deeper voice inside said that some yogis were moved by my love.
Hmm. I just had the urge to send this message right here, right now. I’m scared to face the depths of the retreat. Is my ego just flaring away or is it true that I touched people in that meditation hall? As the weeks fell away, our senses, our emotions, were heightened. I know that kindness came off me, compassion, love, peace. Back here in society, it feels like others can’t feel me. And I want to be felt.
When I applied for the three month retreat, one question on the form was something like “What goals do you have for your time at IMS [Insight Meditation Society]? I answered in three words: “To love people.” And I know that I reached that goal. It doesn’t make me special. But it happened.
Throughout the retreat, I got to reflect on the Buddha’s words: “Life is impermanent.” My peace came and went and came again. So did my back pain. I fell in love with another yogi. At the end, I found out that she’s happily married. Now she’s thousands of miles away.
I suffered when I thought of my lost love, just like the Buddha said I would. He said that all of our experiences are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. I’d sometimes be in the middle of “unpleasant” and have the astonishing experience of it floating into “pleasant”. How is that possible? All I can think of is that I was immersed within the bigness of life as I suffered, and to be so surrounded by infinity made me smile a little smile.
Towards the end of the retreat, I watched myself feel that the only important thing was to contribute to the lives of my fellow yogis. Since I thought that being in their presence made a difference, I didn’t meditate alone in my room. I went to every scheduled sitting in the hall, unless I had an interview with one of my teachers. Oh my. I just want to love people. Travel, money, “success” – all very nice, but there’s so much beyond the daily round.
I’m very tired. I told myself I’d come home and write more about the retreat. But I don’t want to. I treat the world gently. I need to do the same for myself. Heading down to Massachusetts in September, I chose a bus schedule that had me travelling for 16 hours straight, including all night. I got no sleep. When I got to my motel in Worcester, I slept for 17 hours. Upon waking up, I realized that I had committed violence on myself. No more of that, thank you.
And so to bed. Goodnight sweet princes and princesses.