Matt: I didn’t think I was like this, I thought I was brave
—- Sharing on the 3-day retreat (3R3), 2015/04/18 ~ 20
Before the retreat, I was nervous because I knew that my body was not in the right mode for the retreat. A year previously I had been practicing for at least forty minutes per day, nearly everyday of the week. I knew that the retreat would be difficult physically and concentration wise. My main attitude before going into the retreat was to just to see how it goes, to survive and to see what I could learn about myself.
As I sat for the first evening I was aware that this would be an ordeal. My body was in pain from the first session. Nevertheless, I didn’t let go of the method, and tried to doubt on everything that came into my head, my feelings in my body, sounds in the room. I would ask what is this sensation or thought and then ask ‘what is no self’？ This is what I had been doing before, asking the question generating a sense of doubt, following the doubt feeling and then coming back when to asking questions when that feeling became weaker. This precise feeling of doubt, confusion, uncertainty, had taken me to deep levels of concentration before and led me to have moments of realization so I felt secure in my practice.
Despite not having premium concentration I continued to practice in this manner throughout the first day and a half of the retreat. Everytime I found myself drifting I would return to this process. I would follow this doubt feeling until there were no more questions to ask. My mind and body was already so still that I did not have to ask questions any longer, I had a strong feeling of doubt. Here I began to doubt on my consciousness itself, this evoked a scary feeling of confusion and I found it hard to let go.
This fear of letting go, I rationalized it in comparison to previous practices. Before the retreat I had promised myself to treat the retreat as a new experience. I knew that I had reached levels of extreme stillness with my mediation before, in which I had gone beyond time, beyond self, could feel every sensation in my body, every sound, feeling all together at the same time. I knew that I would try to retrace these feelings. Even with being conscious of this pattern, I felt that I could not ignore it. I still compared my practice to one’s previous, I still got frustrated that I could not reach the levels of concentration or depth of practice that I wanted. I wanted to go past the pain feelings, as I had before, I wanted it so much. Because of this, there were many times in the retreat where I grabbed onto the doubt feeling. I was desperate to answer the question, I wanted it with all my might. I wanted to push my practice as forward as fast as possible. I was also proud of this great spirit.
The other thing I foresaw on this retreat was immense pain. Even though I knew what it would be like, my body really couldn’t handle such intense pain, despite the conviction in my mind. I found myself shaking in shock from the pain. I also found myself deeply breathing in a panic, reacting to the intensity of the pain. None of this was voluntary and I felt deeply embarrassed that I would distract others.
Consequently, pain became the major theme throughout the whole retreat. Previously I could sit through half a day without feeling pain, but I discovered I could not even last one session. The overwhelming focus for my meditation was my pain and I tried my best to doubt on this sensation of pain. I doubted on who is the person feeling this pain, what is no self. I could feel myself scared, I could feel myself upset. I doubted on these feelings, but the pain was so intense that I could not really go past it. The pain was my reality for my retreat.
Halfway through the retreat, I felt happy with myself. I had no succumbed to wondering thoughts, I had kept my will and dedication to answer my question, I had tried to doubt throughout rest periods on every bite I was eating. I was conscious of myself trying to escape the pain but nevertheless I had a good feeling of doubt, of not knowing that I relentlessly pursued.
Linda told me that I was still trying too hard to grab onto my doubt. I felt very defensive at this point as this was something I had made sure not to do. I had made a pact with myself to take each session as itself. When Linda told me not to try to chase my doubt, I was surprised but took this to the next session.
At this point I decided to just let go. Let go of achieving anything, let go of trying to doubt, let go of answering my question. I just asked the doubt question and followed the doubt itself. I did not try hard, in fact I did not try at all. I waited as long as possible between asking the question and did not judge the doubt that was generated. I just let it be. Without intentionally trying this process relaxed me. I just doubted on what came through me, feelings, sounds pain. I did not actively try to generate doubt.
The pain was so intense throughout the first session after lunch on the second day. I could feel all of the reactions of my body to the pain, so acutely. I had so many ways of trying to escape the pain. I would lie to myself, tell myself stories about how brave I was, have conversations with Linda in my head. As I was aware of myself and doubted on who I was, these became clear to me as lies. I would feel myself breathing deeply or moving slightly. I would feel myself bargaining, ‘if only I can last ten minutes’, ‘if only Linda can save me by adjusting my positioning’ ‘if only I can move now and apologize’. I could also hear myself crying inside, feeling so sorry for myself, begging for the pain to stop, begging for the bell to ring. I was so scared and I could see my fear and my desperation to escape. Through all of this, I doubted on it. I didn’t try to grab onto the doubt or try to use the doubt to escape. The movements between the different forms of me dealing with the pain were very apparent, that was all I could feel, these different forms, lying, pleading, crying, escaping. This was me, but what was no self? In the eye of the storm I asked this question and saw myself for a few seconds or something of myself. When the bell went I was in shock, and so upset. What had happened? How could this pathetic creature be me? I didn’t think I was like this, I thought I was brave. I was upset and wanted to cry. At the same time there was a sense of invigoration, learning about oneself.
This was the main thing I took from the retreat. Self realization. The other thing was that I had been making up a narrative to my practice, of improvement, of journey. This wasn’t conscious and I thought I wasn’t, but I had been. How can you improve at not-knowing? If there is nothing to know. The realization that I had created a two year story to my practice was a strong one.
Finally, I was also apparent that the premium moment of any session is the ringing of the bell. At the moment I could doubt the easiest, the change in who I was was so apparent. How could I possibly be the same person I was a second ago. The ring of the bell can feel like an hour and the changes are so clear. **** check more Students’ Sharing ****