Eight days in silent meditation, sitting, standing, walking, laying down, making the dishes. No enlightenment this time either. However, attending to my neurotic mind with intention, it somehow found peace and freedom from attachment and reactivity on the seventh day.
It had just begun raining after seven days with a warming sun. Mindful zombies’ steps (to quote the chef witnessing us doing mindful walking on the lawn) were all gone as meditators hurried for lunch in the pouring rain.
Last but one lunch to go, standing in line and watching the food, I was aware of thoughts questioning I’d be satisfied with the offerings. I had scaled down on the amount of the delicious food day by day, because I felt I didn’t need as much, and it hampered my meditation quality too.
Somehow I got lost seeing that cold quinoa salad. I began serving myself. And then served again. Took some more Baba Ganoush, just in case it wouldn’t be enough. I congratulated myself for only taking one and a half piece of bread.
As I passed the line (I imagined) I saw all the eyes on my plate. The mountain of Baba Ganoush I’d taken. So I paced up, hurried to find a seat in a corner. Hide the Baba Ganoush with the half piece of bread. Eating fast in shame, with thoughts arising: “I’m gonna spoil the last day of meditation by being too full. How could I? When I was doing so well?…”
Finishing up I realized I might just make it through the afternoon practice without sleeping.
Thoughts starting to spin around how I was gonna write this insight down and share. I started composing it in my mind, repeating it several times as to ingrain the main points, so that I wouldn’t forget until I could write it down the following day. Lost in thought for a while.
As I became aware and woke up, I remembered a conversation between the Dalai Lama and a practitioner that the teacher had told the day before:
“When will I be free?” the practitioner asked the Dalai Lama
The Lama retorted: “How long have you practiced?”
“Twenty years,” the practitioner replied.
The Lama: “Then you are in your early years of practice, a beginner.”
That afternoon I sat down in the meditation hall for two and a half hours. Without any expectation. Just sat.
Silence, stillness and practice dissolved some programmings and habitual patterns these eight days. A few core beliefs popped up and caused great distress, others emerged into awareness for the first time, not yet fully acknowledged. One I became aware of cannot yet be met with kindness, but the intention to hold it with kindness is there. Even when I cannot. Just allowing this intentional space makes it bearable, workable somehow.
Give me everything mangled and bruised,
And I will make a light of it to make you weep,
And we will have rain,
And begin again.
While the process of awakening – becoming aware of and exploring the many layers and complexity of the mind and heart, experiences, patterns and programmings – continues, I practice. Right where I am. Making peace with imperfection. Reminded to be present by my daily meditation routines, by creating the right conditions and surrounding myself with people that help me remember to present and supportive towards myself.
In the Pali language, mindfulness – Sati – is literally translated as remembering to be present. Mindfulness practice is all about being reminded to be present to what is, again and again.
As one of my teachers, Lama Surya Das, so beautifully puts it: Remindfulness – remembering to remember what you are doing.
These silent meditation retreats remind me of why its so important to be awake and kind to myself. Every moment in life is so precious and worth remembering.