This short video was shared by a participant who attended the Western Zen Retreat in 2015 and used what he learned in that retreat to help him through the challenging time during the pandemic. He wrote: “5 years later, that phrase “Remember to come back” helped me cope with the anxiety of the pandemic and the lockdown.”
Well, as the retreat was starting, I had the feeling that it was coming at the most inopportune time. There were so many things in my life seemingly falling apart, that my mind was like a whirlpool of thoughts and emotions, with no solid object to grasp for stability. Fortunately, the retreat was the event that would help me to tread and swim safely through the storming waters in my mind.
At a certain point in the first sit, I found that I stopped trying to search for answers, or even for calmness. I just simply gave myself over to the method and allowed all of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions to keep their course without me obsessively grasping at them, trying to put them away, or eradicate them. The whirlpool continued in the same way it had before the retreat, but I found that I was able to breathe and I was able to see. I was able to just reside in the whirlpool, watching like a big beautiful ball of energy, without fighting against it, without trying to calm it, without naming and blaming, without trying to escape. No matter what arose, I was able to sit, see, and let it be. Yet, I am not saying it was easy. My body was taut; my head hurt, my blood pressure was higher than normal, my shoulders on fire. But I knew that none of these things were going to injure me or ruin me, at that moment, or during that day. By the midpart of the first half of the day, I just gave myself completely into the rhythm of the retreat. Whatever came before or after, would still be there and there was no reason to bring it up at the moment. These things would certainly come knocking and I would just greet them with, I don’t know, indifference? I’m not sure how to describe it.
Despite the physical solitude and silence, I felt great support from everyone in attendance. As the retreat fades into the past and the days of the week come and go, I still feel that support, as if a seed was germinated and planted inside of me, continuing to be nourished each time I apply the method both on and off of the cushion.
One of the takeaways I have from the retreat is the importance of carrying the method and applying it when moving through the world. While it was always something I had an intellectual awareness of, it has now become something that brings me great joy. I feel clumsy in that description, but I don’t know how else to say it.
Thank you Rebecca for guiding us last Sunday. It was a truly memorable and valuable experience.
This article on Billy Graham’s missed opportunities helps remind me of the importance of being aware of our influence on others as teachers. The choices we make in what we teach, how we teach as well as how much we adapt the teachings to our changing society have consequences. The more influential one becomes, the greater care we ought to take in cultivating this awareness as these are no longer personal choices when we serve in the role of Dharma teacher.