This year going into silent Insight retreat was unsurprisingly different to last year. For one I had the past experience to draw from, what to expect of the functioning and program and some knowledge and lived experience of the teachings but my inner experience was actually completely different. The teachers, Carol Perry, Angela McGee and Subhana Barzaghi were all women and brought a beautiful compassionate, strong yet feminine quality to teaching the Dharma. For those of you who don’t know the Dharma maps the Buddha’s original teachings.
I learned that the Buddha never wanted to start a religion and while on his death bed his followers insisted he name his successor to which he replied haven’t I provided you with enough? This retreat taught mindfulness of the Dharma in the Western Insight tradition; a non-religious and non hierarchical, democratic tradition of teaching Buddhism. It originated from five key teachers from the west who travelled and studied the Thai Forrest tradition of Buddhism and brought Insight over to the west, one of them travelling to Australia. I also believe MBSR is informed from this same tradition as well as the Zen tradition which has many overlaps and paradoxes, as does life.
Day 1: Retreat a poem by Marion Miller
Surrendering to the sounds that fall away in a dance of energy. The great spirit holding me in blissful essence. Each worry peeling back to reveal a softness in being close with love and an open heart. The body resting, resting, resting now peacefully home in it’s place among all things flow.
Much like the 8 week MBSR program this 7 day retreat delves into the four foundations of mindfulness but in a deeper, spiritual way that simply can’t be achieved without the commitment to on-going practice over the full seven days or more and allowing you to slow down and look within your own mind, heart and body. It may seem like a radical thing to do but this removal of day to day responsibility and the support of sincere and experienced teachers plus the holding of a community of people all dedicated to the pathway breeds a culture for wise and compassionate awareness cultivation and safe human inquiry for man and woman alike, side by side.
Day 2: To be Alone a poem by Marion Miller
Going inward on an adventure how I wonder about the journey ahead. Then clarity emerges and the white noise passes. Sky above me becomes me in a moment of truth. All life is passing through me in times woven tapestry.
When I arrived for the first few days I struggled with tiredness, traversing the edge of sleep and back again on my sits, head nodding I was the sleepy Buddha and then there it was; an old friend of mine. Fear, grief and broken heartedness flashed into my awareness and the practice held so soft and gentle allowing it’s presence to flow in and out of my consciousness in a befriending and kind way. I was indeed the guest house as Rumi mused in his much loved poem. It’s visit was so brief this time, like a little creature just wanting to visit awhile, be loved, acknowledged and integrated whole. Reflecting I thought if this was the face of my deepest fear, I am free.
Day 3: Clear Eyes a poem by Marion Miller
The pond settled, water evening out to glass. And now presence has come into reflection. Peacefulness beneath the passing ripples on the surface. Opening to the depths unafraid I look up lovingly upon sorrow and it passed like a tide. I say goodbye and leave the door unlocked.
Most of the retreat my meditations were held lightly, I was nature with the seamless energy that flowed inside and all around me connecting and appreciating the earth and her gifts of abundance and her magical invitation to dance in delights. I loved on the darkness and light, rested on the dirt or soft grass, bathed in the sunlight and got lost in the blue skies and soft floating clouds, struck by the starlit heavens and explored the bushland curiously looking for wild friends to play hide and seek.
Day 4: Creative Heart a poem by Marion Miller
You hold so you hurt, you care so you cry, you come into joy at the moment and allow expression of it all. The instrument, the energy of life has chosen this body to manifest all kinds of wonder.
During kitchen duty every morning at 8am I washed and chopped a wonderful bunch of organic vegetables preparing the three meals which were all different in ingredient, flavour and combination. Eating the food made with love I began to deeply experience the interconnectedness of my body with the abundant earth I walked, cleansing of toxins and became inspired to care more about what I take and consume for myself. I’ve thought about vegetarianism for some time but this experience was mind/body/heart felt. Nature spoke and I listened deeply within.
Day 5: You’re not alone a poem by Marion Miller
Hearing your cries my heart aches, I too know what it is like to lose things. I want you to know that this shedding is preparing you for something new but I can only hold you in space and allow you to discover for yourself. Tears fall like dew drops from the soul that is awakening to the vast beauty at the core of your new tender being. Born into the interconnectedness of this precious moment.
And it is not only what I take from the earth that was a focus of my contemplations but what I give my energy to; how I live and spend this valuable currency that my body is an instrument of. My work is obviously the platform that has allowed me to connect meaningfully with others and take wise action. I’ve renewed inspiration for teaching mindfulness and helping my clients embrace the pathway that honours the natural world we are all apart of. I challenge you all to consider how you take and give back to this life and in doing so perhaps begin to questions some of the fundamental truths you cling to that frame your experience. For it is only when we deconstruct that we can begin to recreate a new reality.
Day 6: Lifetime a poem by Marion Miller
Returning to familiar with strangely new eyes. Lots of learning to digest, let marinate and peculate. Difficult to fathom the size of the cloth that weaves this experiences. The thread of my life is but a blink in time.
You might like to look into what motivates your action and really start to look closely at the intentions behind all your behaviours. And taking the time to reflect and investigate in mindfulness practice can surely help increase the awareness of your body, mind, heart and environment and come into the harmony of all life. Each step brings to light the goodness and that in and of itself is enough to be whole.
As Mary Oliver says in her timeless poetry tell me what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?