Because we care, we choose to practice. We yearn for peace, for genuine happiness. And so we come to the cushion and engage with the crux of our predicament: what does it mean to be here? The feeling of being here is the gateway to all life’s vicissitudes, from the ever-shifting sensory landscape around us to our personal thoughts and emotions. It all arises right here. We often neglect the fullness of presence in favour of a reliance on thought.
On Sunday night I got back from a three week work retreat at the stunning Gaia House in Devon. A month or so back I’d been looking for a job, and also wanting to go on retreat, so I decided that I could wallop two birds with one stone, whilst also lending a helping hand at a world-renowned retreat centre. According to the Progress of Insight map which I’d found very useful since I started meditating, I’d been lurking in the equanimity phase of my first insight cycle since my first retreat in January.
I’ve been back from Dhamma Dipa for two days now. Here is a report of how it worked out for me, for those interested. The first 3 days were hell, and I don’t use the term lightly. Physical pain, mental judgements and overwhelming emotional attachments all quickly came to the surface thanks to prolonged meditation and the Noble Silence. The whole retreat experience is set-up so as to facilitate this kind of coming-to-terms: there’s no-one to speak to, nothing to distract yourself with.