Saturday, September 17, 2011


I was on the 2011 ordination retreat for men into the Triratna Buddhist Order. I've been on quite a few of these retreats, only missing them when my kids were wee, and they get harder and harder. It's partially harder because I understand more and more what it's all about and the beginners luck has worn off.

Beginners luck is when you get into deep meditations because you've not meditated before and you punch through some levels quite easily. But as you meditate for years and years, punching through a level gets harder and harder, sometimes.

Another reason the retreat was hard, was because my meditation practice, while improving and coming back, hasn't been consistant, and like being in shape, if you're out of shape, there's only so far you can go training intensively. Of course it's good, but there's a difference intensifying when you're got a kind of fitness.

So one upshot of my retreat experience is that I've got a lot of work to do.

Of course the new people see with fresh eyes how wonderful it is to have time off to devote to meditation, friendship, dharma study, vegetarianism and walking in nature.

My retreat was all men, and it's a rare thing for me to be with just men. I like that. I love women, I've gone on many mixed retreats, I've done mixed study and all that. I think it's cool to be with just men.

The retreat was on Subhuti's paper based on conversations with Sangharakshita about imagination in the spiritual life.

I know it's kind of spiritual materialism to enjoy collecting new meditation practices, but I do like to learn new practices. We learned the practice where you call to mind the qualities and being of the historical Buddha Gotama.

I alternate between metta and mindfulness of breathing, and just sitting. Sometimes I extend that, or throw in a 6 element or prostration practice.

Btw, I finally heard an explanation of why people don't like the word "spiritual". I've heard many people say they don't like the word, but I never heard anyone say why. In Paramananda's lovely book, The Body, he says that spirituality has an implication of raising above, which can lead to getting away from the body and the muck the lotus needs to grow in. He prefers soulful. Works for me. Still, I use the word in contrast to materialistic or worldly. Even though I want to stay in the body, and I have to be in the muck, still, I do like going beyond somehow. Beyond and grounded.

One of my friends said I got my smile back.

I really appreciated the people who got ordained recently joining the retreat. I worked on my doubt with them--I have subtle and vague doubts that need to be rooted out. Doubt is fine, but it can undermine your practice if you don't examine it, process it.

Anywho, I got a lot from the retreat, and feel that it's a really wonderful thing for everyone. I wish I could do a week every two months, but my life doesn't support that idea, so I might as well either work towards it, or banish it from my mind.

In the safe setting you can talk about your meditation experience, and hear others. That's wonderful.

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