Thursday, May 7, 2009

Treat or Retreat

I am doing a little retreat of sorts, giving more time over to meditation and contemplation for a week.  Timing and circumstances have offered me the opportunity.  It has coincided with a period where I have been reading less Dharma.  This has not been any conscious decision but just happened.  It is interesting because my observation is that I am learning my "Dharma" more deeply, directly from my life.  It feels like when I read other more advanced practitioners and teachers I get it in my head, in an oh-yeah-that makes-sense kind of way.  And  then that finished, I move on and the idea or Dharma lesson floats somewhere on the surface, like a lovely little bubble.  It feels akin to naming things, when we see the bird or tree or whatever and name it, we think we know it.  But the phrase "knowing something too soon prevents us from really knowing it" comes to mind.  Somehow when we "know too soon" we don't really "see"  with any depth.  But if we stop to look, without the intervention of words and labels, somehow we give ourselves the space to really "see" things.  

So when I actually find fear in my life or sloth and torpor and really explore these things I "get it" at a deeper level.  So that's what this week is about, a little more first hand Dharma, a little more depth.  

Last night was the beginning of my retreat.  The previous night some physical symptoms prompted me to go off on a little "worry fest" about my health.  I watched how quickly this can just flare up, a little brush fire in the spiritual forest.  Poof and we've burned half an acre.  What's that all about I asked?  The wise little Dharma gnome inside me said that it was about fear.  As most humans I am attached to my life so thoughts of death frighten me.  "And why is that?"  I inquire of the gnome?  "It's the self that fears it's disappearance, that values itself as "a thing", more important than all else."  Otherwise we are just energy, passing through this world, learning, watching, experiencing, no big deal.  Also Ms Gnome pointed out that it was all a little mind game, generated by that trickster, monkey mind, that I was imagining a situation and it's outcome, running little badly filmed home movies in my head.  Sheesh, someone turn that projector off, list it under free stuff on Craigslist!  So that was the fear episode, not nearly as entertaining as reruns of Seinfield but there it was.

Next I was visited by sloth and torpor.  Is this starting to sound like the "Ghosts of Christmas Past"?   Sorry no pudding for  you.  My close buddies S&T, look like some large lumpy cartoon characters, lumbering, slow and somewhat depressed.   They are so not spa like or good company at all.  I turned up the heat (it was damp and chilly here last night), got out some books and my computer, had a nap, read some and kind of sat like a zombie for a bit.  Sloth and Torpor snuggled up close. Maybe I should do something, na.  And so the evening passed.  I was just getting by.  You know that feeling.  Now I want to qualify that it's good to be with what is, and I also want to say that savouring some down time is a good thing too.  But only I can look deeply at what I am doing and know who I'm snuggling down with.  Is it joy and appreciation or S&T?  Truth is the important issue here.  What am I up to?  

This morning as I looked back at my evening the movie became a little clearer.  My fear had sent me running to my companions of Sloth & Torpor, comfortable, habitual friends for me in such situations.  I was wallowing.  I knew it at the time and yet...... I accused myself of it, said some unpleasant things about it which of course made me feel loads better HA!  So fear>>>>spawned laziness which really was a form of depression.  (Are we setting up the dominoes again?)  And then I noticed the propensity to engage in some unpleasant self talk about it all, nothing kind or comforting here.  I wouldn't talk to a friend like this, so why is it okay to grumble at myself like this??  So I could see where the work needs to be done.  Seeing all this is the compassionate side of suffering. It is the suffering that leads to the end of suffering, as opposed to more suffering.   I add this in case it all sounds a bit grim to you.  Man this woman's a downer, I think I'll change the channel.

So it seemed the first order for today was a little right effort, "grasping the will" my teacher calls it.   Some qi gong, some meditation.  Sometimes it is really hard work to get yourself to these things when your inclination is to stay and hang out with S&T.  And as I sat in meditation it all became clearer.  I could see the need for compassion toward the little self.  often I am barking out orders and criticisms (and eek using the Dharma as the grounds for this)  saying ridiculous things like "Self, don't be so fear based, don't be so lazy."  If I were in charge here I'd just up and fire me as guardian and motivator of this little Dharma Life.  Go get a job at Malwart!

So that's the first retreat installment.  More to come I'm sure.  I am off to paint, paint, paint and hopefully it's not myself into a corner. 

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