Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ambition and surrender to blooming

On the one hand you’ve got to applaud mavericks.  I think about Daniel Ingram who writes Mastering Core Teachings of the Buddha, that lays it all out there: Here’s how to get enlightened.  I think about others like David Smith and his A Record of Awakening.  For the the phrase “go for it,” and “petal to the metal” capture this spirit.  And yet for 5 years Daniel Ingram was a “one technique freak”, and built up his practice.

Rosenberg talks about a retreat where he slept from 11-4, and basically mediated 50 minutes and walked for 10, ate at his meditation spot and slept at his meditation spot.  And you couldn’t move.  Then somewhere along the 90 day retreat, they were told they were going a week without sleep.

I think about Milarepa’s last teaching, lifting up his clothes to show the calluses on his butt.

How do you press, push yourself into something that is so surrendering?  In meditation, you’re just opening up to your experience, trying to become more intimate with it, really looking into what is going on in your mind with depth.  That’s a kind of surrender, a kind of opening, you're not forcing anything.  It's no slam dunk.  It’s not a detachment or numbing as you push.  It isn’t something you can just willfull come into being.  Deepening in meditation is a healthy intimacy, which passes through a kind of preciousness, and then widens into a stable openness, realization of conditions and compassion.

How willful can someone be?  I’d rather exert myself mildly in a community of strivers, than willfully pushing myself in a world of people who are quite happy the way things are.  Everyone is striving in one way or other.  We’re interconnected.  I see a webs connecting each of us, flexible, stretchy webs that are almost invisible, but I see them more and more.

I think about the science fiction novels where people connect together mentally to run robots in war.  They are told that if they do it too long they will be injured.  But the reality is that they will become enlightened.  The first group they tried this on became enlightened and wouldn’t fight the war.  So they were isolated and hidden.  But you can’t hide something as awesome as enlightenment.

On this anapanasati retreat, I focused more than ever on thinking how I can deploy these insights into my live outside retreat.  I had lots of little insight into how I make my own suffering, the second arrow that doesn’t need to go in.

I had plenty of interesting experience to contemplate on.  From borderline behaviors, to a dog attacking me, to a neighbor of the center making sure I wasn't a harmful stranger, to finding a tick on my arm.  I had lovely visualizations of riding around the circle of meditators on a unicycle and slapping high fives to everyone including the Buddha.

Cliches are not bad in Buddhism, and in a way you can read something without a felt sense of what they are saying.  The words run over you like water over rocks. But there's a deepening on retreat.  I became fascinated by my breath.  I felt more deeply annica, which is impermanence.

So many levels of goodness.  Seeing the foliage of New England in fall.  Walking outside.  Good vegetarian food.  When I walked in someone hugged me and I felt so warm and welcome.  Other people really helped me, and I hope I helped them.

Milarepa talks about stopping chasing the sticks like a dog, and turning to face the stick thrower like a tiger.

The overflowing energy on retreat I poured into howling along to my favorite Rush songs, driving home.  I couldn't stop laughing when my friend said he had to open his eyes in the shrine room to see who was licking their balls.  It was the guide dog of one of the retreatants.

It's cool to read another person's musings on a retreat, like the secular buddhist blog does.


Savanna Jo said...

Wonderful post, thanks for your writing x

Stephen Bell said...

Thank you Savanna.

Just read in Daniel M. Ingram's Mastering The Core Teachings of The Buddha,

"there is a bit of a paradox here relating to effort and surrender. In many ways it is at the heart of the spiritual life. There is a lot of advice available on this point, but in terms of insight meditation practice I would say this: If when meditating you can perceive the arising and passing of phenomena clearly and consistently, that is enough effort, so allow this to show itself naturally and surrender to it. If not, or if you are lost in stories, then there are some teachings coming up in the other lists that may help."