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As I mentioned in a previous post, the beginning of retreat was tough for me. Slowing down, getting used to a new routine, etc was challenging. However, once I got settled, some amazing things began to unfold.
It was almost a tale of two retreats – two halves as it were. Several people left on day 5, to go back to family, for Christmas, etc. So it was a little disruptive to the flow for those of us staying on, not to mention missing the people who were leaving!
I want to share one or two experiences in particular, okay, maybe three, that were above and beyond normal (for me).
I came down to retreat with my own (idealized, ego-driven?, I-know-what-I-need) agenda for what to work on during retreat. I got permission to skip several sessions / day to be in my room doing my own practices.
So during the first 4 days or so, I did this. I was working to accumulate a particular Dharmapala – that is Dharma Protector or Dharma Guardian practice – to accumulate mantras. I believe that this practice helps / will help to prevent Lyme’s disease for taking advantage of a stressed out immune / nervous system. So I was going for it – doing at least 1,000 mantras a day of this particular practice. For the purpose of humility, I will not mention what I was working on. If you know me really well, then I would have told you perhaps.
Long story short, one evening I was pushing even harder. I think this was day 4. At night, we had two silent sitting sessions after the Dream Play work time to integrate and prepare our minds for dream yoga. So I somehow did 1,000 mantras during one of those hours. As I was doing this, I began to have a lightening feeling – like a light bulb was turning on around my third eye – or pituitary gland in my forehead. It is very difficult to describe, but it was not a typical meditation session. Plus I felt a warmth and potency-increasing feeling which sometimes happens in my Dan Tien or Hara (below the navel) in my belly.
That evening and into the next day, I had some juicy dreams – about helping to keep a secret (in the womb) and other insightful dreams about prenatal or childhood times / issues. And then, when I went to do this mantra some more the following day, after only doing 30 or 40 mantras, I felt nauseous, sick. So I paused, sat quietly and an hour later, tried to do more mantras. Again, I felt sick trying to push through these inner obstacles.
Sometime during that day, I realized that here I was in a potent retreat where it was very easy to do inner child work – it was happening all around me, especially during the Zapchen Somatics hour and then again during the Dream Play hour. So why was I trying to push when I could be doing my own inner child work?
I realized that the nausea was probably due to my needing to do umbilicus work on myself – on my little one. (Sorry Mom – before I mention anything else here, I need to mention that my mother is a saint, she is helpful and generous and patient and skillful. As a nurse I am certain that she was, retired now, very good at what she did and at connecting people. Seriously, she is an incredible mother, going above and beyond for all of her children!) Now, with that out of the way, there are still ancestral double binds and other toxic beliefs that new babies come into when then descend down into the womb around day 6 or 7 or 8 and begin the process of implanting in the uterus to connect to mother’s nutrient. So this is what I had to work on.
In fact, just thinking about early (think blastocyst – just a collection of 200 cells at this point) Kirby, before being a fetus or a prenate, needing appropriate boundaries, needing to be welcomed into the womb and into the world, needing to have unconditional loving kindness… I feel activated (because all these needs were not met).
So I remember that that was then, and this is now. I differentiate past from present, healthy adult self now from wounded little one then. I compassionately hold little blastocyst part of me in my hands, calling on my wisdom beings support to also assist and add an extra layer of support. And I remind little one that he was so loved, so wanted, and that he can have the breathing room AND connection that he deserves (this is known as an appropriate boundary).
Ahhh… I sigh and I feel better. The sigh is probably a breath change indicating my nervous system is regulating easily again after being reminded of a traumatic early / primal period.
So this is what I started to work on. I spent almost 2 hours every day resourcing, repairing misunderstandings in my little one, inviting these little wounded parts to come forward toward health and robustness and resilience. I stopped accumulating mantras – stopped worrying about formal Dharma practice, and began a radical level of loving-kindness and compassion practice toward myself – radical Metta.
As an aside, I have had three moles removed over the past 10 years from near my navel, and so far we have caught them early enough that they are just abnormal cells (not anything serious). But it is strange that the only part of my body having abnormal skin cell (nevus / mole) growth in near my navel – my umbilicus, the part of me that was connected with the world early on (through Mom).
I fully believe that this is indicative of my having to do some major inner child work around being wanted (I was an unplanned pregnancy), being welcomed, being loved by both parents, having both parents do their own emotional growth work (not many people do this nowadays, let alone 38 years ago!), etc. I am certain I have some suppressed rage and resentment and confusion around ancestral double binds, and this festering of deep emotions is what causes the moles to grow.
Because when we have deep shock or freeze in our tissues, there is the tendency to wall off that part of ourselves, to allow the functional (or relatively healthy) parts to continue growing and living. But if we don’t ever get back around to working on the shitty material behind those walls, then those cells start to do their own thing. And this can lead to cancer and autoimmune diseases, etc. We must work on our shadow material or it will start to go rogue on us.
So this is what I did for the last 5 days of retreat. True Dharma practice – inner work. It was almost as if the Dharma Protector practice I was doing led me to see what I needed to work on. No more spiritual bypass – no more glossing over these vital Good Mother Messages. No more leaving my little blastocyst parts of me in the dark or the cold of frozen / shock-laden tissues. Time to practice true kindness to self in order to truly be kind to others!
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