Reflections on a Ten-Day Retreat

When I signed up for the June retreat with Steve and Kamala, my overriding concerns were whether I’d be physically comfortable and whether I’d make it through ten days.

I was pretty much uncomfortable the whole time … and the ten days seemed like an eternity.

Uncomfortable? I didn’t sleep well. I got migraines. I had bouts of restless leg syndrome (muscle spasms that keep getting worse until you move your legs.) It kicked in with a fury. Walking meditation was my refuge. Of course, I felt disappointed — I wanted to experience peace, peace that comes with the absence of physical pain or emotional churning.

I got help along the way. After the equanimity practice on the second day, my mantra became: “Can this be okay? Can this be okay? Can this really be okay?” I worked with it and, in the end, it was okay and even more than okay. I soon realized that, in choosing to be aware of what was predominant, without preference, I experienced a deep peace that wasn’t dependent on conditions. That awareness gave me some peace, regardless of what was going on with my body.

And the ten days? They were slow and meandering. Sometimes, time seemed to stand still. Whatever the causes and conditions, I experienced the following: When I was bringing as much attention as I could collect to the predominant experience in each moment, time became irrelevant. It was simply a matter, every moment, of observing what was going on now. (I can only say that I did not make this happen, it just happened.) What great practice 10 days of that was.

There was an exception. For about an hour on the last night, I began thinking about going home, sleeping in my own bed, being comfortable again, reconnecting with my husband. Time dragged; it seemed tomorrow was too far away. I thought I’d go crazy. I even got my cell phone out to call home. What would it hurt? Then, I saw it. — longing, impatience, grasping. As soon as I could name them, was aware of them, could observe them, the spell was broken. While I was still looking forward to going home, I knew that was not my present reality. If we don’t live our present, we don’t live.

It was a fantastic retreat.

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