Karen: Keep your river running
—- Retreat Sharing, 7-day retreat (TP7R1), Jun 4-11, 2016
This seven-day retreat was a rare opportunity for me. I couldn’t attend the whole retreat because I needed to work for three days in the middle; I worked during the day and went back to the retreat afterwards. At first, I was worried about this because I was afraid that I would lag behind my fellow students too much. So time was limited and tense for me. I started asking the question louder and harder on the first day. This made me keep concentrating on the question. And, my body, face, and muscles were very tense. The next day, I got up early, before five a.m., and started my practice. After the morning practice, I took a bus and MRT back to work. I was afraid my focus on the question would decrease, so I tried asking while I was on my way. While I was doing so, I laughed on the bus because I felt like an idiot. I thought I was self-inquiring but actually I kept asking the question like I needed someone to quickly give me the answer. I knew this was wrong because I wanted someone to take the responsibility for my questions.。
I had experienced a severe leg pain this time. I started to have leg pain last October, but it was not very painful. This time it was so painful that my leg was twitching; I will never forget this. During one of the sessions in a morning, I suffered a severe leg pain for the first time. After getting through the leg pain, I could ask questions more widely and freely than I did before. I stayed in an unknowing state without asking a lot of questions, sometimes I didn’t use any language for a while, but at the same time, I was afraid to meet the same situation that I experienced in the morning. I avoided my fear and took a rest during that period of time. It made me feel safe and steady. Shifu Linda told me that I needed to ask questions with language. Then, I started to add the question, I didn’t think too much about the question, just asking, no matter if I asked well or asked poorly. I kept asking, asking, and still asking. I kind of understand a little of what “running a river” that Shifu said means. My practice was not steady enough so that I went back to my old habits often. I was still attached to looking for doubt sensations and grab the questions tightly. On the morning of the last day, I started my questioning and kept asking steadily in the beginning, but at a certain point, I think because I was not concentrated enough, I fell down and my legs started to twitch again. This time it was so painful that I almost gave up in the middle several times, at that time Shifu Linda helped me and kept talking to me, “Get through it while I am still alive.” It was really hard to ask any questions at that time, but I remember Shifu said that we have to try our best to ask questions with our last bit of strength if we still have it. After passing through the leg pain, I started to feel safe again, I knew I needed to continue my questioning, but things became different. I have an attitude problem, that is, I couldn’t ask with powerful strength from my heart. I wasted the last session. I didn’t know how to break through it. I planned to ask Shifu after lunch and keep trying in the afternoon. But there was no session in the afternoon. The entire retreat had already ended. We will never know what is going to happen in the next second. In the sharing and discussion time, I found what I should do. That is, I need to ask each question like each asking is a brand new one, rather than look back to previous experiences.
I didn’t reach the goal I set before this retreat. My goal was to get through the forms of duality that we are used to insisting on. I thought my problems were an attitude problem and a lack of good quality and quantity of practice. Besides, I dare not say I want to get to know the true nature of life. I learned a lot from this retreat. I could be more concentrated this time, even though this is not the purpose of Zen. I am happy that Shifu Linda reminded me that we don’t look for no pain. No matter what we encounter, we still insist on being all in the question. Besides, there are some words striking my heart. First, if we don’t know what progress means, how can we define and imagine it. Second, we will never know what is going to happen. Third, we will never know whether we have reached our extreme boundary or not. I haven’t reached my goal. I will move on even though I am shivering. **** check more Student Sharing ****