William：There was an “I” waiting for the bell ring… (the 3-day retreat experience in March 2014)
Before the retreat, I had attended a daylong class and in my mind I had some preparation. The first day was like a warm-up. The outdoor meditation session became a release to help me reduce my mental stress about the leg pain. (Later after the retreat, my teacher told us that outdoor meditation sessions were more difficult than indoor ones.) After the first day, I found that leg pain was dealable. At least, people were all survived and fine. Although everyone had his/her own sensation about pain, no one gave up or left.
In the first three sessions of the second day, I felt very intense. I was drooling; the sound of swallowing saliva was so loud; my sound of swallowing saliva was chorusing with the sound of breathing around me. Our teacher reminded us of saliva things. In the beginning, I found it was so difficult to be not drooling because drooling was such a self-reaction movement, yet when I was more and more focus on my doubt, it seemed that the movement of swallowing saliva turned to less and less. On one hand, I was aware of the intense and loose of my throat, the amount of my saliva, and the air through my nose when I was breathing. On the other hand, I was concentrated on my doubt. Sometimes when I got disturbed, I drooled and swallow saliva again.
After lunchtime, the teacher gave us a lecture on tiger and pain. She reminded us to focus on doubt from the very beginning of each session, she also instructed me to relax my body. I found out my own way. Every time when I asked myself “what is no self?” I breathed slightly and relaxed my shoulders and body. Gradually I found my hands were relaxed, too. My thumbs were relaxed, not touching each other purposely. I breathed slightly and asked “what is no self?” simply. Every time I asked the question, I took a pause and felt the doubt. It was not so painful. I felt more relaxed. When I was aware of the sound around me or my mind movement, I doubted on it. The whole afternoon, I kept on doing in this way.
Until to the evening sessions, when our teacher told us about building up the confidence of Zen practice, I found that there was an “I” waiting for the bell ring, how come there was no self? What is no self? After that, whenever I found my mind was moving, I doubt on “what is no self?”
I was so focusing in the last session that I found in quietness there was a roaring like waa-yii-ohh, lasting for about ten seconds. And the roaring repeated twice. I did not know what sound it was, but I doubted on it, “There is an ‘I’ heard this sound, how come there is no self? I do not know what no self is. What is no self?” Later on I felt so relaxed and barely felt my breathing, I just kept on doubting.
I waked up in the morning and found my doubt was weak. By walking and standing, I increased my doubt feeling. In the first two sessions, I was unstable probably because I tried so hard to continue or retrieve the experience of the last session of the prior day. I felt very painful, and I needed to go to the restroom. After breakfast, I was still suffering the pain. I was so anxious and unstable.
The teacher reminded me that I was still too nervous and grabbing on my doubt. Grabbing on doubt was pursuing something in the outer world, and I was supposed to look inward to my mind. My reaction was “there is an ‘I’ trying to grab on doubt, how come there is no self”. Whenever I was aware of “I”, I just tried to ask the question simply, clearly and truthfully.
I got much improvement in the third and fourth sessions. Although the break between the third and fourth sessions was very short, I was OK to deal with my leg pain. After massage, changing legs, I was able to continue the fourth session right after that short break. I was more confident about my practice. My doubt was stronger.
After lunch time, before the last session of the 3-day retreat, the teacher mentioned that we should be practical and efficient in our daily life as well as on cushion. Only in this way, we could improve the quality of our life and our Zen practice. What happened on cushion was like concentrated juice, and the concentrated juice would release the flavor to our daily life. So I decided to focus on my doubt from the beginning of the last session. It was not that painful. I doubted, and I relaxed my body. During the session, the teacher reminded us to be simple, clear and mindful on the doubt, and it brought me back to focus on doubt again.
When I heard the teacher returned to her seat, I kept on doubting, simply and clearly. When I heard my teacher shouting “Let the pain kill you!” the voice was just like an electric stream penetrated through my body. I was very impressed. Although it was my first time that my body was relaxed to nearly immoving, yet after my teacher’s shouting, I was aware that my consciousness was still moving. So I continued to doubt until I heard the bell ring. After that session, my doubt was strong and continuing.
Through this 3-day retreat, I finally experience the real doubt from my inner mind. I had more confidence about myself. I got progress, and I knew my faults and how to improve my practice. I benefited from the 3-day retreat. I also found some of my “unaware movements”, like I was not listening to others instead I insisted on expressing myself. I thought I had a lot to discover and to improve. I believed, just like the teacher said, if I was not aware of my old habits and I did not change my attitudes and behaviors, my Zen practice would be just a superficial one. ***** check for more Students’ Sharing *****