The Silence

Here’s a little something I was inspired to write while I was in my first month-long silent retreat. Please take it with a grain of salt and allow yourselves to be humored by this person’s attempt at lyrical writing. Lol.

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The silence helps me

be more aware of the quality of my thoughts.

The silence helps me

be more aware of the workings of the ego.

The silence helps me

in training the mind towards the stillpoint.

The silence helps me

cultivate emptiness.

The silence helps me

see AS IS.

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On diversity

Diversity – let it not be a means of power struggle, but a means to learn from one another and respect each other.

A line this person intuited while on a silent retreat last month. Easier said than done, of course.

I was reading the end of a chapter in this book called Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor when that thought came about. It was on the subject of sangha or community. And it was concluded with these words:

“… to imagine a community of friendships in which diversity is celebrated rather than censured. In which smallness of scale is regarded as success rather than failure. In which power is shared by all rather than invested in a minority of experts. In which women and men (and all other genders/ non-genders, says this writer) are treated as genuine equals. In which questions are valued more than answers.”

Sounds utopian, doesn’t it?

Part of my ego play is that I always felt different from the norm; hence, there is a bit of ulterior motive in that intuited line. What ought to be or not is one’s personal choice. We all have our shadows and light to play with or choose from. It’s all up to each one of us to decide which we prefer. We are all entitled to our views and opinions. However, I would like to point out that we are also capable to withstand differences. We all have the ability for tolerance. It takes a lot of compassion and courage to view our different qualities with calm abidance and without limitations; more so to learn about our individual selves in the process.

In my own practice, this process of understanding and being in the space of calmly abiding to whatever arises from my own limited human capacity, I am much more aware of my vulnerabilities as a human being. And as such, I am not really that different from the next person. We are all conditioned beings with our own response mechanisms programmed from when we were very young or as adults, and perhaps even in utero or before that. However, I would like to believe that we are also powerful beings. As much as we are capable of destruction, we are also very capable of loving and healing ourselves and others by acknowledging the diversity within and around us. I found that through the practice of patience and kindness towards oneself, we can have a deeper understanding of how incredibly interconnected we all are. We are one big sangha, one big community.

May all of us be well. May all of us be at peace. May all of us feel connected. May all of us be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

Om, shanti shanti shanti.

(If anyone is interested, the book is a very practical and simple guide to understanding Buddhism for practitioners at the beginner level like myself. I now consider it as one of my go-to books on this path of awakening.)

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-CHANGES

In my years of practice, so many changes have occurred. I am no longer the same person I was when I first started on this path. The unfolding continue to happen at different levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, instinctually, intuitively. There are good days and there are bad days, and all I can say is, IT’S ALL GOOD.

As David Bowie wrote…

I still don’t know what I was waiting for

And my time was running wild

A million dead-end streets

And every time I thought I’d got it made

It seemed the taste was not so sweet

So I turned myself to face me

But I’ve never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see this faker

I’m much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)

Ch-ch-Changes

Don’t want to be a richer man

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)

Ch-ch-Changes

Just gonna have to be a better man

Time may change me

But I can’t trace time

I watch the ripples change their size

But never leave the stream

Of warm impermanence and

So the days float through my eyes

But still the days seem the same

And these children that you spit on

As they try to change their worlds

Are immune to your consultations

They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)

Ch-ch-Changes

Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)

Ch-ch-Changes

Where’s your shame

You’ve left us up to our necks in it

Time may change me

But you can’t trace time

Strange fascination, fascinating me

Changes are taking the pace

I’m going through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)

Ch-ch-Changes

Oh, look out you rock ‘n rollers

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)

Ch-ch-Changes

Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older

Time may change me

But I can’t trace time

I said that time may change me

But I can’t trace time

Isn’t he the coolest? Let’s sing it. =)

Absolutes

There are no absolutes. As one of my teachers said,

Suffering ensues when we do not recognize our boundless nature.

Renunciation

I would like to share this poem that resonated deeply when I first heard it (while in savasana) at the Being Dharma retreat. It’s written by Jennifer Welwood, a psychotherapist and spiritual practitioner who I look forward to learning from one of these days.

RENUNCIATION

There will always be voices that promise you greatness and glory:

They call out from the worldly marketplace;

They call out from the spiritual marketplace;

They call out from the fill-your-holes-marketplace;

They call out from the bigger-better-more marketplace.

Do not buy their false promises, or purchase their ephemeral wares;

What fulfills for a moment is not worth the price of your soul.

There are heights that will lift you, but not when you try to ascend them;

There are powers that will fill you, but not when you make them your own.

There are treasures, and there are imitations of treasures.

If you have lost your true gold, at least turn away from the glitter.

Want only what is true.

This will lead you to the well of your deepest sorrows.

Follow that passageway, all the way down;

Become the dark emptiness of your absent core.

Be still. Don’t measure the waiting.

Be still. Let the waiting become a fire.

Be still. Let the fire show you its secret heart:

A strand of clear light running through you.

Gather yourself there, and the luminous universe opens.

In that vast expanse, fathomless, infinite ocean of light,

Lose yourself, and find yourself, and become what you already are.

© Jennifer Welwood

A Beginning

So, I’ve decided to start this by posting about my first ever month-long silent retreat. It was a very challenging time for this person, yet a very good opportunity to unfold into a deeper practice in the safety of amazing beings who held the space beautifully.

The retreat was called Being Dharma led by two former monastics, named Kittisaro and Thanissara, and the venue was at Dharmagiri Hermitage in Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. It was mainly a meditation retreat with yoga. I usually go to retreats with a bigger focus on yoga, or just plain meditation. So, this was something truly different – a lot more integrated and one month long! It was a good way for me to start this year’s travels to deepen my practice.

The hermitage is a beautiful space and I’m glad it’s in the backyard of the country that I’m currently living in. I really appreciate what Kittisaro and Thanissara do as their life’s work, for it helps lost (or feeling lost) beings like myself to have more clarity in the ways things are.

Here are a few pictures I took to try and capture the serenity of that space where I committed to spend a month of this life.

angelic sunset

angelic sunset

the end of the walk

the end of the walk

a clear day

a clear day

the Castle

the Castle

upper shrine and Vulture's Peak

the upper shrine room and Vulture’s Peak

a sunrise

a sunrise

meditation room

where the work is done

outdoor dining, accommodation, shrine room/ meditation hall

outdoor dining, accommodation, shrine room/ meditation hall

shadow

shadow

bench with tea cup

a good spot to contemplate and drink tea

angelic sunrise

angelic sunrise

the view every time I exit the house and the road I walk up to the common area

the view every time I exit the house and the road I walk up to the common area

sign post on the road

sign post on the road

the house I stayed in for the month

the house I stayed in for the month