musing meditation retreats past...
I was remembering fondly how I'd done a five-day sesshin once upon a time, at a Zen center near my home in Boulder Creek, California. (sesshin being the Zen Buddhist word for a retreat.)
it meant we all spent 10 hours a day sitting in formal zazen (half-lotus position with hands in a certain mudra), staring at the white wall in front of us with half-open eyes... with walking meditation and silent meals in between.
it was unbelievable.
I was a bliss-bunny after the first few hours, and it only got more joyous inside me as the time went by. (even though my physical body was getting stiff and sore and cranky as the hours, and then days, went by.)
everything was precious to me, every moment was interesting and super-vibrant. I mean, something was really awake and alive, inside me, as well as how I noticed and navigated through the external world.
(which is really saying a lot because I am notoriously NOT, I repeat, NOT a morning person, I don't ever ever ever do mornings, like sunrises, unless I've been up all night..... and at the retreat, I was waking up pretty happily at 4:30 a.m., oof, and ready to meditate all day.)
I loved the silence.
I loved the starkness of the white wall in front of me, day in and day out.
I loved not knowing what day of the week it was.
I loved how everything got blurry around the edges, how one day merged into one night, how each meal seemed unique but also like every other meal that had ever been, how waking and sleeping seemed not terribly different from one another.
I loved not having my cell phone ringing.
I loved feeling like the whole experience was intimate; it was between me and the divine and really no one else.
that was a big turning point in my spiritual life, on a lot of levels.
during that sesshin, I healed a traumatic romantic relationship (ironically, the guy was ATTENDING the retreat, an utter coincidence), I had a few mystical experiences that defied my mind completely and solidified my growing suspicion that there was indeed more to life than what meets the eye... and I dipped for the first time into real, sustained silence and found it delicious. & deliciously alive.
these days, living in an ashram in India, every day has the quality of a spiritual retreat.
I've been here for more than four years, now, watching day turn to night and back to day again, 365 times a year....
the distinctions between night and day, waking and sleeping, inner and outer awarenesses getting blurrier and blurrier around the edges by the minute.
clearly my destiny resides in the spiritual life.
I wouldn't trade any of the experiences I've had over the years in meditation for anything else.
in particular, the ones most precious to me are those that stretched me WAYYYYYYY beyond what I thought was my comfort zone, both internally and externally, ie, physically.
those inside and outside challenges are the real bliss.