William: I was so unwilling to stay right here right now!
—-Retreat Sharing, 7-day retreat (TP7R1), 2016/6/4 – 11
To have a successful Zen retreat, I tried to make the entire 7 days as “one sitting session”, starting from the moment when I checked in. I worked hard on asking “No-self? No-self?”, and I followed Shifu Linda’s instruction.
Day 1-2: Facing every real “I”, I asked loudly
After sitting and asking the doubting question for two days, I encountered the leg pain and I doubted on it. Even when I had thoughts related to my leg pain, I just kept asking “no self?” No matter what, I kept asking “No self? No self?” In addition, when I felt drowsy, I asked loudly, and put forth all my strength to open up my drowsiness by asking “No self? No self?” Also, when I was nervous or anxious, and when my saliva constantly came out, I just continued to ask hard. I could even open up the blankness that I wasn’t aware of before. I kept asking without stopping, “No self? No self?” Gradually, my struggle with the leg pain stopped, which was the biggest breakthrough after two days. Funny, I actually was so concerned about the sound of swallowing my saliva, just like two years ago and it has not changed!
Day 3: I was not asking the doubting question earnestly
The third day, I still followed Shifu Linda’s instructions. I kept asking loudly, focused on the question, and I kept asking intently, “No self? No self?” However, I knew I was still checking my doubt and even managing the strength of my doubting question. This was totally wrong, especially when compared to the successful experience of the previous days.
I got limited progress because I was not asking the doubting question earnestly. I should only follow Shifu Linda’s instruction, acknowledge that I was comparing and calculating, and continuously ask “No self? No self?”
Day 4: I asked loudly on every emotion, thought, and fear
The fourth day in the morning session, I just couldn’t sit that long, and I was patted by Shifu Linda’s Zen Stick. Shifu Linda said, “you are still calculating! Still sensing! Still not earnest!” Because Shifu Linda pointed this straight out to me in my face, many uncomfortable emotions came out. These forms are all me!! All I can do is asking the question ” No self? No self? ” honestly and earnestly.
Until the session after breakfast, I just followed the instructions, and asked loudly. Right before the end of the session, I was still struggling with the leg pain, but I could continue to ask loudly, and move forward, “No self? No self?” When I used all my strength to ask, until exhaustion, I could only ask, and I continued to ask until the bell rang!
After the bell rang, Shifu Linda unexpectedly demanded all of us to lie down on the floor, not to think, not to ask the doubting question, and not even to doubt. However, in the end I had the thought, “How long do I have to lie down like this?” I found that even at this moment I could not even allow myself to relax, I still wanted to escape from the I at“this second”, and I was so unwilling to stay right here, right now!
In the afternoon, the session before dinner, I was very impressed as Shifu Linda reminded us that before we face the leg pain, we have to face our fears first, and doubt on these fears! All of a sudden, I found my original fears everywhere! These fears were not only just fears of physical pain. Fears were almost everywhere! I had been afraid of this! Worried this and worried that! Did not dare to do this and that! After this lecture, I really doubted on all of these fears, I faced the fears from the beginning to the end, just continuously asking “No self? No self?” These fears are all “no self?” I never thought of it in this way. When I just really face the fears, I could keep asking and asking.
In the evening, Shifu Linda reminded us that today is today, we need to make today “this day”. Today is neither tomorrow nor yesterday. No matter what, just ask continuously; try hard to make today “today”. During the break time, Linda’s words always came out to me and urged me to continue and to move forward! Today is not the same day to any other day, and I just kept asking!
Day 5: Constantly trying
The fifth day in the morning session, Shifu Linda pushed us more tightly. I just asked loudly in the very beginning. The first challenge was to face my physical reaction in the morning session, as well as the sound from my stomach and swallowing of my saliva. Despite these embarrassments, I could only keep asking, “No self? No self?” Shifu Linda’s shouting appeared next to me, and this only motivated me to continue and to move forward. I put all my effort on the question, and continuously asked until the bell rang. Finally, I found I could go through these obstacles, and I just kept asking and asking.
Before breakfast, Shifu Linda reminded us again to intently recall the process of earlier sessions, to find our own problems, adjusting our mistakes, and learn from our own meditation experiences. In the consecutive sessions after breakfast, I learned a lot about myself. I also found I was still struggling with the leg pain for a short while before the break. I could only use my last strength to continue asking, “No self? No self?” Until I completely ran out of effort, I still kept asking. It was like grasping on the last piece of floating driftwood, so that I could float to the surface. I have been continuously asking “No self? No self?” Suddenly, I found my leg pain was totally gone. When I heard the bell ring, I opened my eyes. During the break, I still kept asking and I found the question arising automatically “No self? “, No self?”, one by one.
Shortly after the break, I remembered in the previous day, Shifu Linda asked me, “if you still can sit when you hear the end-up bell, why don’t you continue? You should be very clear about your meditation situation.”
When the bell rang in the first session of the afternoon, I found that I could still sit and keep asking. At this moment, I decided to keep asking, even when Shifu Linda said, “open your eyes and take a short break” I continued to sit. After the bell rang, the sounds from my classmates were very clear, like a test to my concentration, but I just sat there onto the next session. When I heard the bell rang, I immediately decided to shift my legs and to continue. I understood that this time when I shifted my legs I was not as hesitant as before. I shifted legs just because I want to keep asking. I only knew that I just kept trying, kept asking, insisting on wanting to know the answer.
After the most successful experience in the evening, I shared this successful experience with my classmates that today. Then Shifu Linda asked me, “Is there any linkage between leg pain and shifting your legs? ” I didn’t immediately understand Shifu Linda’s question. Shifu Linda asked again, “What is leg pain?” This time, I just answered, “Leg pain is leg pain. Shifting legs is shifting legs. The doubt is the doubt.” At this time, I really understood that my answer came from my Zen experience.
Shifu Linda instructed immediately, ”Can’t shift the legs” is “can’t shift the legs!”
Day 6: The counterattack of the meditation cushion
The sixth day in the morning session, I noticed that my dishonest habits appeared again.when I asked the doubting question, I was actually checking my thoughts and attaching to my doubt sensations. I did not ask the question honestly and earnestly. In fact, with this attitude, my doubt was not “real.’ At the end of the session after breakfast, I noticed that I could continue to sit, I just decided to continue. However, after the consecutive sessions, my mind became not pure, a complex situation unfolded. Before the bell rang, I let myself fall into a deep dark state full of fears. I was swallowed by a big wave of darkness, fear, and pain. In addition, many emotions associated with the leg pain and fears, immediately came up again. I really had no energy to continue, I just experienced extreme frustration.
I told Shifu Linda my situation during the break. With Shifu Linda’s guidance, I came to understand that sometimes the oncoming forces are big that you cannot even afford to deal with them, and all you can do is stay there and continue to ask the question. Once again, my self-righteous progress was broken—- even “progress” is not the same as I thought!
No matter what, it is just “right now”, and just do it from right now! I kept going on, continuing to ask! Dishonest thoughts, deep fears, extreme frustrations, were all these forms me? All are no-self? Finally, I knew if I didn’t ask the doubting question honestly and earnestly, the cushion would really give me a big lesson!! I have nothing to say about the counterattack of the cushion, all I can do is asking the doubting question honestly, earnestly and humbly.
For the whole afternoon, I just kept going forward until the session before dinner. I followed Shifu Linda’s instructions, and I continued to ask loudly whatever I encountered. I didn’t set limits for myself. Even when I encountered the turbulence, I still kept doubting, “No self? No self?” One question after one question, I just kept going and moving forward. I insisted to continue but I was suddenly patted by Shifu Linda’s Zen stick. Then I made every effort to ask sincerely. Before the bell rang, I finally came back to the right track! I kept continuously asking.
Day 7: Building up the mainstream.
The last day in the morning, I continuously make every effort. I just didn’t know what no self is so I kept “No self? No self?” I asked from my heart, I continuously asked, “No self? No self?” Then I firmly continued to build my mainstream! I didn’t think about what would happen, what situation I would encounter. I didn’t think about the successful experience of the past few days, I just continued my efforts on each sentence and continuously asked, I really asked! I really didn’t know, “No self? No self? “ I just continued to ask.
I learned from this retreat that I still had the same old problem of not being honest. In addition, I know how to do it clearly but I didn’t do it accordingly nor straight up all the way. I learned that each retreat is just that retreat. The last retreat just was the last retreat. The next retreat will be the next retreat. The successful experience of last time is just last time’s successful experience. Each mediation practice, each session, is just that session. Each doubt is just that doubt. **** check more Student Sharing ****