Thursday, August 02, 2007

DIARY 39 - The path of least resistance it seems the only way.

Returning to Padmaloka Retreat Centre after an absence of about three years
obviously felt significant, as I've been on a bit of a prodigal journey. It felt very
much like meeting up with a valued friend who I hadn't seen or spoken too for a long time. The sort of acquaintance that requires no bridge building or making up of lost time, you just begin from where you left off. This has left me wondering why I was so reticent for so long,but then the whole withdrawal from Buddhist institutions was a mysterious compulsion, not wholely subject to rational explanation. It was a beneficial process and I've returned ,to Padmaloka at least, a stronger and wiser man. I have a better grasp now what exactly I have to offer. Padmaloka itself, though beautiful, has become more noticeable as rabbit and mosquito infested place this summer. I got bitten eight times despite liberally coating my limbs and extremities with repellent.

The retreat programme included four substantial meditation sits a day. For a man whose been struggling to maintain more than twenty minutes, it was quite a cranking up of my practice. I chose to throw myself into it, to do only Metta and Mindfulness practices, and no Pure Awareness. After a lengthy absence from a formal and structured meditation practice I found I loved doing them both. My prolonged adherence to Pure Awareness had the residual effect of making formal practice more receptive and relaxed, lacking the willful heady tension that I remember once being such an issue.

For the first three days or so I felt extraordinarily tired and slept at every available opportunity, I couldn't get enough of lying horizontal on a mattress. As the week progressed some fracturing of this solid sleep pattern returned me to something all too recognisable. One morning I awoke, and on thinking about getting up to meditate felt a flashback to a previously familiar response,one of resistance tinged with resentment. This was a bit of a wake up call. I do have a tendency on retreat to go to everything. It comes out of a heartfelt desire to make the most of this opportunity to meditate. This somehow can become a fixed and immovable objective. My response previously would have been to joyfully override the resistance and power on to the end of the retreat, and sometimes this was an appropriate way to proceed. On this occasion, taking into account that I'd also been experiencing on alternate days a desire to withdraw from social interaction, I suddenly realised what was happening; I just wasn't allowing myself enough space to stand back and absorb what was arising from meditation. So, for the last few days I dropped my engagement down a few gears and all was well. It was then that I had two dreams. strong and significant dreams which both happened all in one night, these I will document separately.

Padmavajra gave talks on The Dhammapada,which as usual were accessible and down to earth expositions, with some very pointed and pithy material emerging. I was part of a discussion group that was also extremely lively and engaged, in an experiential rather than theoretical way. A lot of very frank explorations of how practice feels when you are out in the world, but with no direct plugs into a supportive Buddhist context. Quite often, it seems all too easy to feel we are floundering or losing our way simply because we lack those recognisable signposts that a Buddhist institution provides. Yet,this can be so misleading, as the painter George Grosz once said :-

' All that can be said withe certainty is that every talented beginner is like a wine in ferment, filled with something he can vaguely feel but not yet express. Still, even as he flounders, he is forging ahead.'

So to Lokesvara, Dave, Rod, Miles and Nick I'd just like to say thanks for being a very significant part of an enjoyable retreat.

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