It’s been a few days since my adventure into the wilderness and my attempted retreat into the backcountry. I am reminded of last year’s trip and I’m analyzing the differences between the experiences. What I have learned and what I know is that I’ve been – hiding, protecting, not acknowledging – the various struggles I have experienced over these past few years.
As I mentioned in a previous post, preparing your mind for retreat and a solo trip is really important. Is the ground fertile for a retreat? Are you ready for days and days of silence? Once the crazy mind emerges, how will you address the experience? Those questions all come to mind as I think about the past week or so. Here’s what I learned:
- I went into this retreat with a crazy mind and came out with a crazy mind. The isolation from COVID has been a real bear on my mental state. I knew it, in some part of my mind, and now I know it as plain as the clear, blue sky I wake to every single day. (more on this idea in a later post)
- As the emotions and thoughts built into a crescendo of anguish, my tools failed me. Even distraction failed to allay my fears. I was raw in so many ways and could not bring my meditation or journaling practice to aid in my being. So, I went through these events with no support. As a result, I struggled.
- Once I made the decision to leave the retreat, my mental anguish shifted. The strength I felt on the hike out was both a physical and mental moment.
- I now know where my meditation and practice must focus.
Leaving It All Behind
Years ago at a retreat in San Diego with Sogyal Rinpoche, he said something to me that I will never forget: it’s of course important to reconcile your past AND digging too deeply in that past tends to dig up sh*t that then you need to find a way to rebury. His advice was simple: drop your thoughts. Don’t attach to whatever past you are trying to heal; in fact, to heal, turn your mind away from what you consider your “self” and focus on extending compassion and kindness to all. That loving-kindness will, ultimately, benefit your being.
So, as I sat on the benches surrounding the Karmapa’s Stupa in Crestone, I wrote:
“I will consciously let things go. One by one, I will consciously pack my pack, take one step at a time, and make my way through this experience by letting it all go,”
Now, as you are reading this diatribe, you’ll find that I haven’t really let it all go; I’m still trying to establish what my practice will be after my retreat. How I will move through and let go.
Walking and Practicing
Walking meditation is a wonderful practice and is available to us all. This week, I walked in meditation and returned, mentally, to the place I was about a week ago. I re-experienced the fear and trepidation I found in the wilderness. The anxiety grabbed me again. I found that place; I know what I need to do. As Pema Chodron has said, the places that scare you are, sometimes, the places you need to be. I will reread her text, The Places That Scare You for some support as I go into that particular place in meditation.
Finally, I’m not going to distract from the feelings I’m having and try to just be in the moment when those feelings arrive. That is, I feel, the best way for me to address what I’ve experienced in these past months. Too, understanding how COVID has impacted my mental state is, I think, something that I need to address. That will be my next post on this wandering thing I call a blog.