I’ve just returned home from a six day silent meditation retreat. I knew it would be a perfect way to “ground” my intention to “move at the pace of guidance,” despite the paradox of a tightly scripted schedule starting each morning at 5:00 am!
Last week, when I told a friend of my plans, she with a sweet earnestness replied “that’ll be fun.” Hmmmmmm… not the word I’d use to describe sitting for hours in silence, listening to the nonstop noise of my mind, trying to shush the inner voices of criticism and judgment. Yet while not fun, there is something sweetly earnest that impells me to join with this group of twenty or so others to create this sangha of silent, reflective practice.
Over the course of the six days, walking the lush and lovingly tended grounds, I felt I was returning to my senses, as if I’d been quite mad. Ayya Medhanandi, the bhikkhuni (Theravadic Buddhist nun) leading the retreat, referred to the madness of the everyday world and that being here studying one’s mind is an antidote.
Still the temptation to leave is present, even, I discovered, among seasoned dhamma practicioners. A songline kept playing in my head (OK – monkey mind not all bad) “and the only way, of course, is to get your ass back up on the horse” – in this case, back on the cushion! The retreat centre posts a “daily quote” this one on the virtue of persistence and not giving up. I wondered if they were co-conspiring to support us as they never changed the quote.
So why stay? My mantra emerged as I mindfully walked the labyrinth:
Heart wide open
Mind still and pure
I come, and stay, to remember myself and that being kind need be my simplest and only practice.