Wol's report on Stuttgart 2010

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    It's become a personal tradition to tweet the retreats, (usually) one entry per day. The discipline of compressing everything into 133 characters is sometimes frustrating but always worthwhile.


    Day -2, October 9:

    Alone in the office on a fine, cool, sunny Saturday afternoon, counting down the hours until my week of meditation retreat. Life is good.


    Day 1, October 11, lunchtime:

    Just had a marvellous, huge, veggie lunch. Retreat centre is great: sunny, clean, friendly, quiet. Now, a nap before the first session.

    Our meals at the retreat were abundant and tasty, cooked by a young American Elvis-impersonator (this last attribute may have been just Pema's imagination). They didn't compare with Roberto and Anke's culinary wizardry at Windhorse Farm, but the food was very good.


    After dinner:

    Day 1: renunciation, transformation, self-liberation; what does #playasbeing mean; 9 seconds; devotion; ginger tea and chocolate biscuits.

    The keywords "renunciation, transformation, self-liberation" were an echo of one of our last discussions at the Halifax 2010 retreat, when Pema talked about Namkhai Norbu and Dzogchen. I won't lie to you, Marge, I am not sure that I understood how we were supposed to relate to the terms: At one point they sounded like ideal directions to pursue, at others they sounded rather like dire warnings, like lighthouses to steer you away from the rocks. But Dzogchen sounds like something that I could benefit from investigating.

    The foodery continued between meals with a constant supply of coffee, hot water for tea, and a cornucopia of biscuits.


    Day 2, October 12, lunchtime:

    Interim report on Day 2: http://udgewink.blogspot.com/2010/10/buddhas-belly-jesus-tear.html

    Note please that this is not Wol's blog, but one of her alts'. Should you wish to comment on it (and there is no requirement for you to do so) then please be careful which names you use.


    Before dinner:

    Day 2: touching trees; Being seeing/being seen; subject/object reversal; monkey-mind and resisting the urge to lie; 1-minute meditations.

    We did a series of five- and ten-minute practices during the morning and early afternoon. I hadn't worked with the subject/object reversal before, and found it very … what to say? Liberating? Awareness-augmenting? [For others who haven't tried it: I (subject) sit and look outwards at something (object); then I let that thing become the subject and try to appreciate myself as the object of its awareness. This is not the same as projecting my awareness into it and looking back at my "empty" body.]

    The discussion of this exercise developed into a series of one-minute meditations that filled the afternoon, with frequent mention of the eternally distracting/interrupting/censoring monkey-mind. During the course of the week the monkeys became increasingly vivid, with the most active ones even acquiring names like "yes-but".

    In the course of discussing being seen, I said that that anyone could see me as I see myself would scorn and revile me; Pema replied with a tale from his first meeting with one of his mentors — and a spiritual father of Play as Being — Tarthang Tulku. When they met, Tarthang told Pema "When I look into myself I see pure blackness." This phrase stuck with me, but I didn't find room for it in a tweet.

    Sometime during the discussion, we mentioned the shift in awareness that happens when you notice what you're saying as though it were said by a third person (as in Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquoy; a kind of subject/object reversal) and how it often happens that you will laugh briefly in that moment. Eos said "trust the laughter" as a sign that something meaningful has happened; that phrase stayed with me and was mentioned again several times during the next days, but it didn't get tweeted.


    After a spontaneous evening session:

    Day 2 Postscript: being remembered/anticipated; universe seeing.

    At the after-dinner session, we tried a variation of the subject/object reversal, taking ourselves along the time-line rather than things in space as the items to be contrasted. As we normally view ourselves in time, we are the subject and we remember our past and anticipate our future selves as the objects. In this exercise, we tried to make ourselves-in-this-point-of-Now the object and let ourselves be anticipated by our past selves and remembered by our future selves. Fun!

    Universe seeing (being the object of the entire universe's subjective awareness) was much less fun. The majority of us reported being physically distressed by the exercise. It seems to generate very strong flows of energy; to say that these energies are psychomatic (as one might) does not negate their effect.


    Day 3, October 13:

    Day 3: silent day. Being seen by horses; learning to sit; laughing baby; "every thing is all of Being."

    I love the silent days! They are to me always among the high points of a retreat. We were silent from bedtime on day 2 until after dinner on day 3; we considered extending the silence at the next retreat to a whole day, from bedtime to bedtime.

    We had perfect weather: sunny, clear blue skies, gentle breeze, warm enough for easy comfort. I walked in the forest and back along the paddock fence, letting the horses watch me. While sitting during the afternoon, I became aware (as always) of aches in my knees and ankles, so decided that I would finally learn how to do Zazen properly. I watched Eos and Bertram and aligned my posture to theirs as well as I could, and arrived at a pose that was at least much less uncomfortable than before.

    The laughing baby was an image that Lia found within herself and presented during the discussion after dinner. I'll let her tell that tale.

    Honesty compels me to confess that I spent several hours of this day puttering about in the Internets, reading blogs and posting PaB wiki logs and answering e-mail. I've decided *for myself* that for *my* future retreats, the phrase "silent day" will mean "no communication day:" not just no talking but also no Internet.


    Day 4, October 14:

    Day 4: group storytelling; reality is a map not a territory; appreciation; experience distance, but no distance to experience of distance.

    We started the day with another sally lead by Lia, this time to a bench on a mountainside. After some discussion, this was continued in the form of a collaborative story told by us in stages. It was like a mini-retreat.

    The discussion of the putative realness of reality started at lunch and continued in the afternoon, with Pema encouraging me to see that-which-I-call-Reality as one more-or-less-useful description among many of Being, rather than the absolute essence and fullness of Being itself. A map, in other words, not a territory.

    His comment "you can experience the distance between yourself and the wall, but there is no distance between yourself and your appreciation of that distance" arose in the course of a detour through phenomenology. I liked the idea and recorded it for future contemplation.


    Day 5, October 15:

    Day 5 (last day): "Time Space and Awareness"; singing monkeys; the secret of Being in 90 seconds; practice; do try this at home.

    Pema had a breakthrough during the retreat, when he realized that the "Knowledge" part of TSK could more usefully be expressed as Awareness. I'll let him expand on this.

    We played a tiny spontaneous joke on Lia: as she returned from a minute-long absence, Pema said "… and so that is the absolute proof of the real nature of Being." Much laughter ensued. Lia then mentioned a sure-fire formula that she had discovered for achieving Enlightenment in a quarter-hour at most, which involved among other things singing "Guantanamera" three times. Afterwards, all of us reported that our monkeys were singing the song for the rest of the afternoon.

    The day (and the retreat) finished with a discussion of the paths we'd taken (individually and collectively) during the week, and how to carry that on during our normal (nearly said "real") lives. Practice, grasshopper!

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    Viewing 4 of 4 comments: view all
    The page and the descriptions of exercises are so rich I can't wrap my mind around it at the moment. Wow.
    Posted 09:34, 16 Oct 2010
    Sweet, Wol :)
    Posted 13:25, 16 Oct 2010
    That ("blackness") tulku was Tarthang Tulku, Wol.
    Posted 08:46, 17 Oct 2010
    Thank you, Eos! I've fixed the report.
    Posted 09:42, 17 Oct 2010
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