Eric: The leg pain no longer bothered me when I gave up struggling with it
—-Sharing on the 3-day retreat (3R2), 2014/12/13 ~ 15
Finally, my last retreat of 2014 ended up in severe leg pain.
Just like previous retreats, I started to worry about my leg pain, impatience…etc., about two weeks before heading to the retreat site. But when I was aware of my anxiety, I asked myself “this is no self?” I was so anxious that I even googled for other people’s sharing about leg pain in retreat and pretended that I could find solutions from them. Of course, it is impossible to find any solution because what I googled are other people’s experiences, not mine, and Zen practice relies on my own experience.
Although I was so afraid and unwilling to join the retreat, I felt ground solid when I sat on my cushion. The first and second sessions on the first evening went smoothly. I didn’t sleep all the way unconsciously when drowsiness came to me. I could wake up from my drowsiness and keep asking “what is no self? During the first night, it seemed that my leg pain had not caused any distraction, and I could continue asking my question even sometimes I did feel the pain. Anyway, I just don’t know what no self is.
Onto the second day, Saturday, from morning to night, I felt I could cope up with the pace of this intensive training even though I felt leg pain. I knew it was in vain to fight the pain or ignore it intentionally. The leg pain was part of me; I just didn’t know why right at the moment when I was suffering from leg pain, I was no self? Linda told me that I was on the right track; all I had to do is continue to practice in this way. On the third day, my entire body suffered from the accumulated fatigue, feeling more and more intensive leg pain. By the end of each sitting session, I was totally exhausted and felt that I couldn’t continue anymore. Every time when Linda rang the end-up bell and allowed us to put down our legs, I yawned, felt so hungry and ran for chocolate. I never had this sort of experience. In the two consecutive sessions in that afternoon, I found that I was just getting used to my leg pain. But when the stress accumulated, the pain came earlier in my sitting session and went extremely intensive so that I could not focus on my doubt. I spent much more time to concern about my pain, and I used my pain as a hook to ask ”the one who suffered so much is no self?” At end, I also found my body bent like a boiled shrimp, and my head leaned to the painful side. After dinner, Linda told us the story about how her teacher Master Guoru survived from the teaching of his teacher Master Sheng Yen and his pain. But from then on I started to struggle with the leg pain in the two sitting sessions. I finally understood the reason I could doubt with my pain in before is just because my pain had not reached the critical point.
In the morning of the fourth day, we practice for a 3-consecutive session, starting from 50minutes, then 30 minutes and 50 minutes. We were only allowed to go to the restroom and changed legs in a very short break time, which made me feel that I would rather die than sit on my cushion. The pain from my leg and femur was like fire burning, so real, not fake. It was so painful that I couldn’t doubt anymore. I started to feel impatient, tried to cheer up myself, and prayed Linda to ring the bell at the next second. I was trapped in the struggling situation again, and had no idea what should I do. But when I decided to give up the struggling, and the idea that I would give you everything, my pain, and my body, just for the answer to “what is no self?'” rose from my mind, the pain didn’t bother me anymore. Although I still felt the pain and uncomfort, it seemed that there are only my rapid heart beating and my doubt on this rapid-beating-heart left in this world. The leg pain no longer bothered me when I gave up struggling with it, and the only thing agitated me was “what is no self?”
Onto the last session of the retreat, I thought I could pass through the pain as long as I copied the method I had used in the morning. However, it was proved a mistake that I trapped myself in a dualism of arising-ceasing mind because I still treated pain as a thing that I want to get rid of. It is useless, totally in vain, to give up or to surrender purposely, because this is not “doubt” but just a way to pacify my pain.
What had l learned from this retreat? It was the lesson that “All in, or nothing. “ **** check more students’ sharing ****