2012 Winter Retreat29 December 2012
I’ve just got back from a 7 day silent meditation retreat at Gaia House. I’ve been doing these things for 10 years now and every one has been a profound experience. From the last few I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern, one which I thought I’d share. I’ll break it up into 4 phases;
##1. Excitement In the weeks leading up I’m looking forward to being able to switch off, literally, turning off the Internet and phone and not having to talk to anyone. I get a build up of all those classic existential issues and the day to day routine of work and paying bills just never seems to provide the proper space to reflect on them. Then when I arrive, see the building, inhale those familiar smells and take my first sit it’s wonderful, the sense of peace and relaxation is palpable.
##2. This is all a load of crap After a while, the reality of constantly being up close and personal with my moment to moment thoughts and feelings sinks in. I remember that I never actually liked Gaia House and wonder whether meditation really actually does anything. I smell, I ache, I’m tired and bored and get frustrated with how lazy the other retreatants are. This phase is not short-lived :(
##3. Simple pleasures After a while I become unusually sensitive to the simple things in life. I get unusually excited about toast and jam, the smile of someone in the corridor, the hoot of a solitary late night owl, the slow, calming pace of my breathing.
##4. The precious gift of being alive at all I come thinking that I’m going to face and deal with all, well at least some, of my troubles, but this doesn’t happen. Instead I’m just left with a deeply poignant sense of the uncanny presence that anything exists at all. My ongoing worries, whilst not disappeared, seem trivial compared to the gratitude of my health and sanity. All that effort to come on retreat and sincerely look at my stuff sort of becomes meaningless, it feels like naive ambition. How could I miss this most simple of facts? The utterly remarkable gift of being here at all.