pscheuring in Mill Valley is doing 9 things including…

Do a silent retreat in a Buddhist monastery

7 cheers

 

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pscheuring has written 5 entries about this goal

8 Days in the Desert

As mentioned earlier…I ended up opting for a silent retreat closer to home, that my schedule would accomodate…so while it this was not conducted in an actual monastery, I’m pretty confident the end game was the same…so, on with the story…

I just returned from the annual spring silent retreat in the desert near Joshua Tree held annually by the Dzogchen Foundation.

No speaking. No reading. No writing.

The morning bell went off at 5:30am. We alternated between group meditation sessions, individual practice, and dharma talks until 9 at night.

By Day 4, my meditation had reached a level of absorption that intially frightened me. (This with a foundation of 15 months of daily 30-minute meditation sessions). I couldn’t move. Absolutely clarity within my mind, but my feet and hands felt like they weighed a thousand pounds. Very strange, and at the same time exhilirating, as it made me realize very quickly that there are facets of the mind that we do not realize, even in 37 years of thinking that we’ve seen it all.

Sequestered in my room, I cried at one point like I had not in 30 years. A full purge, weeping out loud like a terrified child. I was strangely detached in the moment, more curious about the entire thing while my body continued to have its catharsis. Sounds paradoxical, I know, a simultaneous detachment and involvement like that…but I’d venture to say that one must reach the levels of absorption that such sequestration allows to understand.

Ultimately, what I liked most about the retreat was the 2nd way they taught that one could arrive at the same contentment and peace (when one is not having their cathartic moments) in the contemplation of love, of the unqualified love you receive in your life, and which you transmit to others. Like most men, I am not apt at receiving love, which turns out to be the real key. To be loved without qualification. Once you get your mind around that, rest in that, a real contentment settles in. In some ways, despite the pyrotechnics of the medititative practices, that lesson in love was what I ultimately left the desert with. John Lennon was right. Moulin Rouge was right. The greatest thing you’ll ever do is just love, and be loved. It’s that simple. It took 8 days of boiling my brain the the California desert to fully comprehend that. But I do now. I sort of get the impression that I went into the desert a Buddhist and came out a love-ist. It may sound touchy feely…but for those who view it thusly, I only say, do it, take 8 days out of your lives to spend time in uninterrupted contemplation. Everything significant within you will bubble to the surface. You cannot escape yourself, or distract yourself through entertainment. And ultimately, through the hardships experienced, you feel a catharsis, a lightness. I highly recommend it.



The Plan, Revised

As it turns out, business isn’t going to allow the Thailand trip, so I have found a somewhat shorter trip nearby. I’ll be headed off to a silent retreat in the Joshua Tree desert wilderness this afternoon. 8 days with Lama Surya Das. Should be cool. But no wooden pillows…

I’m at once excited and nervous. I’ve never spent 8 days alone with myself, without distraction or entertainment. I imagine I’ll get squirrelly the first few days, second-guess things, then finally settle in.

I’m eager to see how I feel on that 8th day…

I’ll report back then.



A Year into Meditation

I remember starting a year ago. I couldn’t even find a seam between thoughts. My mind was wild, caffeine-addled, To-Do-list-saturated. I realized with some amazement that my mind had been racing non-stop for seven years.

For the first few months, it was a chore to sit. A task to be checked off. But slowly the seams between thoughts grew, and I rested in a cool, familiar silence (which harkened back, sense-memory wise, to when I was very young: 3 or 4…), even if it was only for a second or two.

And with that progress I became increasingly enthused to sit. It became something I looked forward to.

Now, a year in, I sit in thoughtless silence for about 1/3 to 1/2 my 30 minute sessions. And amidst that something interesting has developed recently. A physical resistance, an unsolicited tightening up. No specific thoughts or emotions elicit this. Just the silence. I’m starting to think that it’s as the Buddhists say: that the ego will do anything not to let go. It fears for its existence that much. And yet, I get the impression that on the other side of that tightening up, that fear (which is body-shaking; I grabbed my head suddenly with a scream once!) is total relinquishment. An utter laying down of things. Once or twice, in the middle of the fear (which interestingly is manifested in my body, not in my psyche, which remains largely detached), I sense joy on an ineffable level. Just on the other side of that fear. I get the sense I am at a threshold.

It’s hard to remain there in the face of the fear, but I’ve managed to hang in a little longer each time. Everything else is gone; nothing external (sights, sounds, thoughts, etc.) gets through. The fear is all-consuming. And then it releases; I don’t ‘break through’ per se, but my body lets go of the tension. And none of the fear persists. Strange. Just goes to show how ephemeral our feelings are.

Promising is the Ajahn Chah passage: “As you go deeper into your practice, there will be times of great inner tension followed by release to the point of weeping. If you have not experienced this at least several times, you have not yet really practiced.



Ball's Rolling

Reserved my flight today. March 27th, I’m off for BKK

Better work on my sitting endurance. I’ve been sitting for 30+ minutes a day, but from what I hear, the 10 day retreat’s a real marathon…everyone’s biggest obstacle is back pain from sitting so much…

Better start upping my sittings to an hour.

Psyched.



April 1-10

The idea is to go to Suon Mokkh monastery in Thailand for their monthly 10 day silent retreat geared toward Westerners. Instruction is in broken English. The pillows are wooden. Attrition rate amongst attendees is something like 40%. Sounds perfect.



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