1 July 2012

Solo Retreat - Day 1

Friday 29th June 2012

I arrived at the campsite at 11pm last night (Thursday) after a 4 hour drive and put up the tent quickly during a lull in the rain. Less than one minute after I zipped up the door opening did the rain come pelting down again. And it was relentless all night. I had to get up twice during the dark raging storms to rehammer the tent pegs down and fasten the cover sheet again.  

Even so I woke up after a wild and disturbed night to find one end of the mattress soaked and had to hang out the bedding to dry between showers this morning. 

Friday (Day 1) is a mixture of sitting meditation, reading and some physical activity around the campsite. Downpours are regular and blow in quickly from the west making it too risky to walk over the dunes and along the wild beach today. After sitting for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon, I succumbed to the overwhelming urge to get some energy moving through my stagnant body - a couple of brisk circumambulations around the campsite perimeter in the frisky wind got ramped up to a jog.

Having the entire campsite to myself gives me the luxurious freedom to do whatever I like (like not brush my hair, like leave the door open when taking a pee in the drop toilet, like doing Trikonasana in front of my tent, like jogging around the campsite 8 times).

Wintery weather makes this a mostly tent bound retreat. Wind is violently whipping the tent, another downpour is imminent. Lucky I brought a pile of books to keep me occupied between meditation sessions.

The books were hastily borrowed from a local library after work on Thursday, an hour or so before I left: 


"Seeking Silence in a Noisy World: The Art of Mindful Solitude" by Adam Ford
I read this from cover to cover on Friday morning. Adam is a retired Anglican priest and has studied and lectured in many spiritual traditions including Buddhism and Hinduism.
A lovely balanced book that extols the beauty of finding silence and peace in nature and solitude.

"The Ragged Edge of Silence" by John Francis, well known for Planetwalker and for his 17 years of silence and 24 years of walking.

"Coming to our Senses: healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness" by Jon Kabat-Zinn
The sheer size of this book puts me off opening it until I get back.  I can tell this book is rich and is best left to many late night readings to absorb the wisdom.

"Be Bold! and discover the power of praise" by Susan Mitchell, a surprisingly insightful book into the extraordinary power of positive language to uplift, motivate and inspire one's self and others.

"The 21-day Conscousness Cleanse" by Debbie Ford...hmmm....some good stuff in this book but ....

"True Belonging" by Jeffrey Brantley and Wendy Millstine.

"The Future of Ice" by Gretel Ehrlich. The front cover described it as 'A Journey into Cold'. 
It turns out to be a stunner of a book, poetic, intense, part travel memoir, part environmental message, but a wonderful meditation on cold places.
One line on the back cover of the book caught my eye this morning:

"the blustery scenery provides beautiful metaphors for the storms inside her head." 

And this describes my experience perfectly...

Outisde my tent the wind rants and raves, beating the tent in it's haphazard frenzy. At night it doesn't let up; dark stormclouds blow in fast, drop their bucket loads of rain on my tent as they pass through, then continue on their merry way over landscape. Periodically the sun shines out from between passing clouds and twittering birds suddenly announce their presence.

Behind me, always in the background, the ocean roars wild, free, uncontained, pounding the shoreline with its heavily loaded storm waves.

The blustery scene is not unlike the storms inside my head... 

Turning inward, I watch the wild cacophony of thoughts pounding at the shoreline of my consciousness. Travelling beyond the turbulent surface, deeper and deeper, I move toward the quiet that I seek.

I notice how attached I am to these surface thoughts, how much importance I give them, how caught up in the story I am, and how this perpetuates their prime time position in my head: thoughts and worries about work and my performance are uppermost, things I have to do, looming deadlines, strategies to deal with co-workers.

To move beyond these thoughts, I have to let go of my clinging, and then let go of the Self that is doing the clinging. 

Death Meditation 

And so I call forth the powerful death meditation to help me:

I did a death meditation in it's entirety when I was here last month on my 3 day retreat.

I'd been planning to revisit the death meditation for a while, but knew the place and time had to be right to gain real benefit. So on the last 3 day retreat I followed Ana Forrest's instructions from her book "Fierce Medicine" writing down the very personal insights and revelations that arose as the meditation progressed.
Many years ago, while formally studying Buddhist practice, I did a full death meditation in the Tibetan tradition under the guidance of a lama - the Tibetans have mapped the physical, emotional and mental process of dying in minute scientific detail - it was a real life experience in letting go and dying that I shall never forget.

Today, for the purpose of this meditation, I locate myself at the moment of death, and fully immerse my self in the unfolding scene, dropping down through the levels and into the arena of my eternal soul, letting go of everything that occupies my surface mind. For now, at the point of death, it no longer matters.

I let go of all thoughts about work, knowing that my worklife is finished at the point of death;

I let go all of thoughts about my family and children, I say goodbye and understand that I no longer have to think about them or worry about their future, they were fellow travellers in this lifetime and will continue on their own journeys without me;

I let go of all thoughts of becoming anything, of working towards anything of hopes and dreams that never eventuated; I let go of all my schemes and plans for things in the future - here at the point of death I have no future.

I let go of all attachments - to my children, my friends, to this body that has carried me, to the beauty of the earth itself, the trees, sunsets, the air, and all the lovely sensuous things I've enjoyed.

I let go of all memories and scenes from the recent and far past - at the point of death I am now crossing through a doorway into a new dimension and must discard all of these if I am to cross the threshold. 

I am now in the doorway that separates this lifetime from what awaits beyond...

Here, in the doorway, having completely let go of all ties to my life, is where I begin meditation...here, on the threshold, free as a bird, I can enter and merge into the quiet eternal depths of this timeless universe...

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