Retreat Report for One-Day Online Retreat (by J.X.)

This is a retreat report for a One-day Online Retreat conduct via Zoom on February 26, 2022. This bilingual retreat report was translated from Chinese to English by Rebecca Pai.

能夠參加禪期是一件很幸福的事,而每次參加Rebecca老師帶領的禪期總是讓我獲益匪淺,都會啟發我對佛法、對自己的人生有新的思考與體驗,激發我進一步探索的興趣與勇氣。 

I always feel blessed to be able to participate in Chan meditation retreats. This is particularly true for joining retreats guided by Teacher Rebecca Li. Chan retreats guided by Li is productive and inspiring. Her teaching is a booster for me to reflect on my life attitude and to enhance my interest and courage in going on and on with Chan practice.

這次老師開示的主題是皈依。老師問我們是不是常常希望由他人或團體來解脫我們的煩惱?聽了老師這段開示,我深有感觸,因為自己的個性比較屬於依賴型的,從小依賴父母、老師,後來依賴先生、工作單位,乃至道場、法師等等。雖然這些年有意識到這個問題,但是改正積習猶如融化一座冰山,談何容易。老師也提醒我,這是我們普遍存在的問題,絕不是“我知道了,我改了”這麼簡單,而是值得慎思再慎思。

The theme of Dharma talks for this retreat is refuge-taking. Teacher Li raised a question: Are you always expecting to get liberated from vexation through assistance from others? I was deeply touched on hearing this, for it seems to directly probe into my heart. I used to be a dependent person, relying on parents and teachers as a little girl, dependent on my husband and coworkers in my adulthood, and on the advice and support from spiritual teachers. I’ve been starting to take heed of the problem for the past years, but how hard it is to eradicate those deep-rooted habits! Teacher Li reminded me of the fact that this is not a case like “O.K., got it,” but rather, it’s a universal problem worthy of constant reflection.       

雖然聽了不少禪宗祖師關於皈依自性的教導,但在我看來這些教導一直都是非常高遠。老師很形象地說明,皈依就是“coming home”, 讓我這幾天很認真地思考真實皈依處這個問題。老師強調,當下一刻練習回歸自性,如實觀照、接納自己的身心狀況,我們就是走在皈依的路上。

We have learned from Chan masters quite a lot of teachings regarding to “taking refuge in our self nature”, but to me these are all based on remote and profound viewpoints. Teacher Li’s specific definition of it, “coming home”, has urged me to seriously ponder on the issue “where is the sanctuary.” According to Li, we are precisely on the path of refuge-taking if we can keep on practicing contemplating our real states, returning to our self-nature moment after moment, and accepting our momentary physical and mental state.   

我的理解,這個問題上我需要在兩方面多下功夫,一個是不斷熏習、加深對佛法的理解。另一方面,通過踏實的修行,增加自心的力量,建立修行所必需的信心與恆心,才能逐步減少心外求法的顛倒心行。

As far as my understanding goes, I have to take care of two parts in regard to this issue. The first one is to keep immersing myself in the learning and understanding of Buddha Dharma, and the other is to increase my self-confidence through solid and steady practice so as to strengthen the confidence and perseverance, which is necessary for the spiritual cultivation and to gradually reduce the upside-down view of seeking outward.

這次禪一的另一個收穫是關於方法。過去幾年我一直使用數息法,因爲數息法的所緣非常明確,能夠幫助我攝心專注。而老師指導的方法是覺察不斷變化的身體覺受。因為自己對這個方法不熟練,感覺上比較容易陷入昏沉或者散亂,因此常常就會不自覺的去提起數字、回到數息。但是,老師開示時提到,我們常常用禪修來為自己樹立一堵保護墻,在墻裡享受輕安與寧靜,誤以為這就是禪修的目的。當我們這樣做時 ,我們其實並沒有真正置身於當下。那麼,我是否應該練習著放下數字呢?我在小參時請教老師。

Another reward I reaped from this retreat is concerning the application of method. I’ve always been using the method of counting the breath, for the key targets of the method, breaths and numbers, are efficient items in terms of retrieving the mind to concentration. The core skill taught by Teacher Li is to be clearly aware of our changing sensations. Since I am not quite familiar with this skill, drowsiness or scattering thoughts become my frequent disturbance. Accordingly, I would very unnoticeably return to the method of counting the breath and pick up the numbers. However, as instructed by Li in Dharma talks, practitioners have a common habit of taking meditation concentration as a wall for protection, inside which they can enjoy ease and tranquility. This is mistakenly considered as the goal of Chan meditation but actually it is precisely against the core teaching of Chan: live the moment. Then, what should I do, should I practice letting go of numbers after all? I asked Teacher Li during my personal interview.

老師說,禪修最主要的目的是培養對當下身心的覺察力。老師善巧地提醒,在每次要提數字的時候,能否看到自己內心出現的抗拒、逃避的心態?這種心態好比是一種噪音,阻礙自己誠實地面對自己、安住當下。我承認自己個性上總希望事情是條理明晰、按部就班,這樣會比較有安全感。一旦節奏被打亂了,我就很容易焦慮。老師提示說,可以懷著好奇心去探究一下,自己到底在害怕什麼?老師建議我練習以開放的心態來面對與接納內在的矛盾與衝突,這樣持續練習一段時間後,那種想要逃避、抗拒的心理自然而然會產生轉變、消融,就能身心自在。

In response to my question, the teacher very skillfully emphasized the cultivation of the clear awareness of body and mind as the major goal of Chan meditation. She reminded me of closely watching the mental states of rejection or evasion whenever I am going to pick up the numbers. Mental states like these can be likened as noise which can impede my abiding at the moment and honestly facing my own self. I ventured to clarify my preference of sense of security based on well-organized and step-by-step way of handling matters, otherwise I would easily fall victim to anxiety. In reply to this, Teacher Li prompted me to do a self investigation out of curiosity and ask my self, “What on earth are you afraid of?” She suggested that I practice facing and accepting my internal contradiction and conflicts with an open-minded attitude. After continuous practice for a period of time, the mental states of resistance and evasion would naturally transform and dissolve. Peace and ease of body and mind would according be attained.

老師說的方法,乍聽之下讓我有些膽戰心驚,同時也有些躍躍欲試。是啊,自己到底在擔心什麼?害怕什麼?是害怕不被接受嗎?是害怕被懲罰嗎?小參後的兩支香,每每想要去提數字時,我告訴自己,豁出去了,看看能怎麼樣嘛!保持放鬆的狀態,體驗著自己身心的感受,有時有些昏沉,有時有念頭徘徊。誠如老師說的,沒什麼大不了的。就是不斷練習知道了就放下,回到方法。這兩支香沒有了原先的戒備與擔憂,內心是安定而滿足的。

The method suggested by the teacher was sort of shocking to me at first, but it turned out worthy of try. Yes, what am I worrying about? What am I scared of? Am I afraid of being rejected? Or am I scared of being punished? I decided to give it a try. In the next two sitting sessions after that individual interview, I tried to tell myself, “Let it go! Let’s see what’s the next!” whenever the notion of picking up the numbers popped up. I felt so good for the next sitting sessions in maintaining the state of relaxation, in which I was experiencing the physical and mental sensations in between drowsiness or wandering thoughts once in a while. It is exactly the case as stated by the teacher, no big deal, just keep on practicing letting go and returning to the method.  During the two sitting sessions I was fully enjoying the internal calm and contentment.

越來越覺得,禪修的過程就是向內探索的過程,不論是對於佛法的聞思,或是使用方法的狀況,最終無不歸於自己的心地。感恩老師睿智與善巧的教導,讓我越來越覺得禪修這件事饒有趣味。希望自己能夠把握善緣踏實修行,好好培養心的力量,也能夠為世界帶來一份安定祥和。

The more I practice meditation the more I realize the essentials of Chan practice: a process of inward exploration. Whether it’s about the learning and reflecting on Buddhism teachings or the application of practice methods, the goal of exploration is aimed at the mental activities of consciousness. 

Deeply appreciated to Teacher Li for your wisdom and skillful instructions. Your guidance makes Chan meditation more and more fascinating to me. I aspire to take the best opportunity to work hard on practice, so as to cultivate my mental power and to bring about my part of peace and serenity to the world.

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