Victor: Everything became quiet in my mind and I was doubting on what is no self is
—- Sharing on the 3-day retreat (3R4), 2015/06/13 ~ 15
In preparation for the retreat I sat for 40 minutes in the morning and evening a couple of days prior to the retreat. I attended 1 day retreats before, but I thought this is 3 days so at least I should prepare for it so I can be sure to finish the 3 days without any problems. One of the things I was planning to work on during the retreat was to better being able to doubt on the movies playing in my mind during my mediation sessions and also trying to enter mainstream doubt.
At the beginning of the retreat at check-in I had to turn in my cell phone and watch. Hence, I decided to just go from session to session one at a time, focus on my practice, and follow the directions of teacher Linda regarding my practice and what I should do during the retreat. In a way I decided to gave myself over to the retreat as to improve my practice and hopefully make a lot of progress towards knowing what no self is.
During the Friday evening sessions I still had a lot of movies playing in my mind about things that happened in the past, and worries I had about the future. My doubt was very fragmented, I only raised the question “what is no self” now and then. Also I was thinking about the retreat, the place, the people, the atmosphere, all distractions to my zen practice. Every time I noticed that I was thinking, reflecting, or had a movie playing I raised the question; “this me no self?” The discussion on fear was very important for me as I became aware that the movies that were playing in my mind were based on fear of not being able to cope with a situation in the future, and also what others might think or say about it.
On Saturday my fragmentary doubt continued, I still had a lot of wandering thoughts, movies, etc. In addition, my legs, back, and shoulder started to hurt. I noticed that I was worried about my pain and tried to tweak my mediation seat with blankets and pillows for support. During my practice I was moving around a lot to find the ‘sweat spot’ where the pain was bearable. Also it was very warm on Saturday, and it took me about 2 sessions to fully accept the fact that I was sweating from top to bottom. Teacher Linda’s story about her own zen retreat experience in the past was an inspiration to me to accept the sweating even though I felt really uncomfortable and wanted to run away and take a cold shower. The discussions led by teacher Linda about how to correctly apply the method, and what we should not do were a great help for me to improve my practice. During the sessions I got familiar with the many manifestations of I. The pain in my legs, back, etc., my wandering thoughts, worries about the future, things that happened in the past, the myriad I’s, e.g. hungry self, impatient self, angry self, loving self, ….so many I. In my evening discussion with teacher Linda she mentioned that this is good progress as I became aware of so many I’s. This was a surprise to me at that time as I thought that I was not doubting but worrying about my pain, seat, and all those other thoughts in my mind. Teacher Linda’s feedback gave me a lot of courage to continue doubting. By the end of Saturday the movies that were so prominently present in my mind the day before had disappeared or their frequency and duration had decreased significantly. I was doubting more and more and I was happy about this progress.
On Sunday morning I had to start up for a couple of sessions, working my way through movies and wandering thoughts to get to the same level as Saturday. In the afternoon it was my doubt and the pain in my legs and back that dominated my practice, and a couple of I’s. Towards dinner time something extraordinary happened. At some point I allowed myself to experience and acknowledge all the many I’s, the pain self, the hungry self, the angry self, the loving self, the self that wanted to quit the retreat as the pain was excruciating, the self that wanted to take a shower,…so many. The number was increasing so rapidly to the point that everything became quiet in my mind and I was doubting on what is no self is, while feeling no pain at all! I enjoyed this state, but I was a little bit scared at the same time as this was a new experience, having had so much pain before and now it was all gone and only pure doubt that I don’t know what no self is was in my mind. This was a really fascinating experience. After dinner I talked this experience through with teacher Linda and she mentioned that this was good progress because I experienced something that I would not have believed if she would have told me before that it is possible to doubt and have no pain at all. Also she encouraged me to continue to explore more about what no self is by continuing my doubt. In the evening I tried to replicate the painless sensation I had before dinner, but didn’t quite get there. From one of the discussions I learned that you should not strive for exactly the same experience, but that you should recall the steps you took toward it, essentially recalling your method. This is what I decided to do, just focus on the method and see what is going to happen instead of seeking a particular experience.
Monday started really bad as my left leg was killing me. I tweaked my seat once more, which was effective to keep the leg pain within tolerable limits. Also I was tired and exhausted by the retreat. I talked to myself and picked myself up and I was just sitting and accepting the pain, while doubting. I just didn’t know what no self was, that was it. After lunch teacher Linda gave us a lecture that getting to know ourselves and our true nature is our own business. This was a very good instruction because I indeed realized this is my own business and that I can choose to just ride it out today or just work extra hard these last couple of session as it is my business. So I decided to work very hard on doubting what no self is. At some point I had a similar experience as Sunday before dinner. I was full of doubt and the pain went partially away. This time I kept pushing on wanting to know what no self is. But other than a deep focus on the question “what is no self?” no insights appeared. However, at the end of the last session I was very happy that I had this deep focus and that I fully realize that getting to know myself and my true nature is my own business. I own this now.
What I learned from the discussions of the retreat is that there is experience as opposed to theory. I experienced doubting while feeling no pain, which was real. Similarly teacher Linda explained to me that getting enlightened is also an experience that can not be captured in theory or described in words. It is something you need to experience for your self, it is the experience of your true nature. Also I learned to be very focused on the question, while being aware of so many manifestations of I. This allowed me to better get to know myself. I also learned that in order to get onto the mainstream I need to doubt on the manifestation of I, the pain, my analytical thoughts, worries, fears, basically every thought that is not doubt. It turns out that I am too much focused on the pain. I am anticipating the pain and I am occupied with alleviating the pain, as opposed to focus on my doubt first and don’t worry about my pain and if it comes just accept and take it. Connected to this is that I should not stay too long with the different manifestations of I, even though they are very interesting to explore. I should just doubt on my pain and I’s to continue on the road of getting to know my true nature, no self. Finally, getting to know my true nature is my own business and I will continue my practice by just doubting on everything. In short, I will “just doubt on it.” **** check for more Student Sharing ****