Yet again, I don’t have the time or energy to make this structured or a decent “looking” composition, but I am very happy to be sharing the essence, the pithy version of events from yesterday’s full day. Hopefully I will have the time to tidy it up within a few weeks. This is a long post… Thank you for visiting!
Whoa! Woke up so super groggy. I’m lucky I put the “right” clothes on. Drove the short distance to retreat, at 5:45 am again. Did my prostrations to the shrine, and then sat down, my head a thicket of dense fog…
We played with a practice from Zapchen which is actually a little more advanced than the basics (so I recommend having a qualified teacher before you do this at home…). We chanted mantras into our brains, then into our hearts and finally into our pelvises. The idea is to enhance the clarity of mind, the compassion of the heart and the potency of the pelvis. Very yummy!
Then I took a short nap. I had some brief dreams / visions as I lay on the sheep skin in the darkness of the morning. Don’t remember much from them.
37 Bodhisattva practices and reading the 8 Verses for Training the Mind. This is good. We mentioned which ones of these were pertinent to us on that particular day. I am working with the “How do I find balance between having appropriate boundaries and compassion for myself, while still honoring the fact that all sentient beings have been my mother in the past – so they are basically all family? And especially if one or two sentient beings are beings of ‘bad nature,’ then how do I remain authentic to my own heart and stay present for them.” I think this will take at least another 10 – 20 years! 🙂 At least! One of the mentors in the retreat suggested that I am honest about my reaction to these people – they are who they are – I am the one having various reactions depending on my moods… Lots to ponder!
Breakfast consisted of sautéed trout and oatmeal, along with toast, jam and butter. I can honestly say I have rarely, if ever had trout and oatmeal for breakfast. Maybe once or twice when camping long ago… 🙂 It was so delicious – there was something (a mineral, essential fatty acid, something) in the fish skin which my body just danced to be taking in. Luscious, delicious, and lots and lots of bones – it was a good reminder that I was eating a fellow sentient being, so don’t get too excited!
Oh – then we did Chi Kung. This was fascinating. The video we watched was silent (we muted the music on purpose) so it was simply a man doing the numerous Chi Kung movements with their names appearing as subtitles from time to time. In other words, I did not know how to breath or when. All I could do was follow the movements, and I was reminded once that I was doing them different from the video (I was very groggy – did I mention this?). And yet, after doing the exercises, I was so exhausted and needing a nap. Something powerful happened simply in attempting to track the Chi as I did the movements. I experimented with breathing at different times throughout the exercises, but WOW! I think I need to get into a Chi Kung class ASAP when retreat is over.
From 10 to 11 am, we looked at the Ganges Mahamudra text, which again, is way over my head. But the main retreat leader asked me to say something about it. Again I do not know much about the text itself, but I love the life stories of Tilopa and Naropa, so I talked about their complicated Guru / Disciple relationship and that provided a tiny bit of context for the actual text. It was fun – an impromptu, super brief Dharma talk… I think I can call it that? But I was feeling pretty awake and alive and clear and potent after having that delicious breakfast. I took a nap from 11 – 12. Are you sensing a theme with me and napping yet? I want to take lots of naps right now as there is a complex and difficult astrological configuration in the sky and it could lead to me burning out…
Yet again, a delicious lunch was had. Lentils, cilantro, sweet potatoes, salad… Mmmmm… Then I went for a walk with a friend of mine. And this was a delectable experience. Because of the retreat, we barely talked (I was actually planning to leave retreat later in the day to go to an interview… so I figured a little talking might actually do me good – better to gently ease back into talking and samsaric mind than to leave retreat later and be plunged into busy busy samsara life without preparation!). But we said enough to acknowledge that we were both in awe of the mighty, roaring river. Plus a magical mist was coming up off the river (the Rivanna) and there were little droplets of water on the trees from the earlier rain.
She is a photographer, so I got to see the world through an artists eyes for just a few minutes, but she was pointing out (very little talking – but it is amazing what you can communicate with gestures) good photo spots. We both said, “I wish I had brought my camera at about the same time.” She has a professional, many-adjustments camera and I had my simple point and shoot digital one. So we decided we would take a short cut back (up the steep hill) to the retreat house and grab our gear! Doing so I got to witness her curiosity, intuition and sense of wonder with her camera in hand. Because I wanted to stay in retreat mind, I took my space too and tried to take some decent pictures, but unfortunately the grey sky masked the beautiful, mysterious mist rising off the grey river… Ah Shucks! Maybe it is time to get a better camera?
The mist changed every minute or so, which meant there were many photo opportunities. We got back to retreat just before the start of the afternoon session!
Then… another WOW moment. We continued in the Hum Book from Julie Henderson which I must say is one of the best articulated books on how trauma gets locked in the body and how we can slowly and gently start to loosen the bonds of conditioned misery! So we did more humming into our bodies as a partner tracked the hum. Bodywork on retreat is always delightful (especially when the group can handle it).
Because I had done the humming yesterday, I got to hum further – into my arms, legs in addition to my guts, midline and brain stem. WOW! It was almost as potent as yesterday’s session, but I think I was a little cooked from all the retreat time leading up to that Hum Book time.
But there was one funny story I want to relate from the humming. So when I was the outside person listening and tracking the lying-down-person’s hum… the leader of this exercise suggested (and demonstrated with her partner) that I lean in close to my partner’s belly and chant the mantra “Om Ah Hung” in a very gravelly and deep voice. So I did so and the sound reminded me of gears turning deep in the earth.
But what my partner said to describe it was hilarious. She had a sparkle in her eye as she said, “Wow! Can you do that again? It is like having an enlightened troll dancing on my belly!!” So I was happy to do it again. We all laughed about it!
After Zapchen I had to leave retreat and it would turn out to be a long delay… I also got food elsewhere and somehow ended up buying a little Buddha statue from one of the Tibetan vendors on the downtown mall who always gives me a deal (probably because I understand when he says, in Tibetan, “for you my friend, I will give you a deal. This is normally $80 but I will give it to you for $60.” And it is a nice looking cast brass statue that can be filled. So I did get a deal! I could buy one of those from a Dharma website for probably $150… Wow! So later, when I got back to retreat, I set up my little new Chom Den Dai statue on my table. “He” is not filled yet (some statues can be filled – see another post from the past about how that works) so he is very sensitive – he could pick up anything around him until a Lama fills the statue with blessings and then seals them in. 🙂 Therefore I left him in the shrine room over night and he will sit there soaking in the magnificent blessings (mandala blessings) until the last day of retreat when I can go fetch him.
I had been offered a relatively free apartment in Downtown Charlottesville (having been looking at housing for the past month). There were going to be strings attached but I was okay with them. And the general manager said she wanted to have this resolved ASAP… So I decided it was important enough to leave retreat (which is typically only a one-year thing in this particular case – it is a very dynamic, unique retreat!).
Oh my god! Samsara is so distracting. My body did not want to leave the retreat space. It was begging and pleading with me to stay in retreat. To stay in the mandala. I moaned and groaned (because in Zapchen Somatics work it is a well known fact that if we try to push through something without expressing our objections, that then we start to form tight tense dense dry tissue rather than expressing our objections and at least allowing some energy to move and flow even though it might be uncomfortable – but being honest about discomfort is better than denying its existence!!!) and even that barely helped. My body, my heart in particular kept yelling, “go back downstairs, go sit on your cushion!” Oh well.
I probably should have listened but I am glad I went to the interview and got the living quarters that I need. So I got the job and I got the “free” apartment. I will be the night manager of a local Inn which means I am on call every night – with some nights not having any calls and on weekend nights there could be a few… We will see how this goes. I am hoping I am mainly a “we need to have someone around in case of emergencies” rather than a “we need to bother the night manager every night about the silliest little things…”
It was amazing though. Just starting to drive away from the retreat neighborhood was difficult. My mind started to get distracted with wanting to turn on the radio, wanting to sing a popular radio song at the moment (without having heard it for a few days!)… Then walking among so many people on the Downtown Mall was a challenge. Maintaining my clarity and potency were not easy – especially during my interview, but I think I did okay…
This is a long post! Thank you for sticking with me and reading along. May all sentient beings know happiness during these holiday times! ❤