After letting a few days pass after the retreat and allowing my thoughts to penetrate, I thought maybe we could share some of our experience(s) a little more here. I watched the sit-along for Friday and laughed as Jundo was struck by my comment comparing the retreat to childbirth. So, I thought I'd try to explain it a little better. So here we go if you're interested...bear with me, it's a long one. Not my usual style, but I spare no words here.
I started my retreat on Monday, December 8, Rohatsu Day, in much less than a good mood! Prior to this, on Sunday, I was feeling overwhelmed with the holidays coming and so much left to do, my husband's crazy new work schedule (that left him very tired and watching football ALL weekend) :roll: , trying to spend quality time with my kids before my retreat and "two-day silence", and dealing with my crazy hormonal emotions regarding it all. Sorry to say, Sunday ended up being a stressful day full of discontent and arguments. ops:
So, with my retreat room in the basement set up, my bathroom chant note cards all in place, and my oryoki set made up...I thought I was really ready to have a few days of quiet and stillness to myself. Day 1 started off very rocky, I had to drag myself out of bed at 5:50 a.m. I kept telling myself, I’m not going to be able to do this am I? Two whole days, wow, that seems like a lot. But something kept pushing me forward, because I really did want to have this experience. Much of day 1 went on like this…During zazen, the mind would not settle. The constant monkey-mind went something like this:
- when is that stinking bell going to ring, I can't sit like this much longer
- wow - this wall really needs painted
- did I just see a bug run across the floor – nah, just seeing things, ooh, no really I think that was a bug!
- holy sh*t my back really hurts, I can't do this much longer,
- wow-my shadow makes me look like a hippo; yep just like Gloria from Madagascar…great!
- OMG! my legs hurt, I'm never going to be able to even walk kinhin, (looking at timer every 5 minutes) - this is taking forever!
- Did I choose the right path - I can't even sit zazen for more than 35 minutes at a time. Hell, I might as well go back to Christianity - at least I can sit in church and pretend I'm paying attention.
- during oryoki - holy crap Jundo! It's a good thing I'm a small person and don't need much to eat, okay this is really fast, Jundo is done already and I'm still chewing with half a bowl left, I wonder if I could finish after we're done (don't worry, I didn't cheat :lol: )
- samu - yay! I can feel my butt and legs again! Wow - I can really get a lot of cleaning done when I can focus fully on what I'm doing. Boy my bathtub needs re-caulked!
- chant, chant, chant…oh hail the watercloset, what? That’s not right…let’s try that again, chant, bow, chant
- I'm never going to last like this, I can't, I can't, I can't !!
I was in a lot of pain on Day 1. The pain, my mind told me, was unbearable. It made me angry and irritable and that’s all I could think of/see. Then late in the evening, I took a bathroom break during Kinhin. While I’m standing outside the bathroom and reciting my “water closet” verse, and bowing, my 5 year old wanted to know why Mommy was "praying to the crapper"! Snap! I came out of my funk, laughing heartily mind you and realized I was going about this all the wrong way…The rest of that evening, I seemed to be able to sit with the discomfort. I was more patient with myself and I found my breath (if that makes sense). I began to have things from the past come up – both good and bad. I was able to acknowledge them, the pain in my body and move on from them. Not letting them control me anymore. I found my stillness. I actually really enjoyed my last oryoki meal of the day and finished my meal before Jundo – yay me! Jundo – I also really enjoyed the little dance, you always make me smile.
Day 2 started off a little rough…I had a hard time getting out of bed and getting moving. My body was still a little sore and tight. But I kept moving forward. I did my morning zazen service and samu. For Samu, I chose to take a brisk 20 minute walk. On that walk, I felt like I was looking at the world from a whole different perspective. The air smelled so cold and fresh. The sun felt so warm and invigorating. I started to feel a connection to EVERY little thing. I bowed to my garbage cans and thought of the men who pick up my garbage and remove it for me. How they come every week, no matter the weather. They do it to support their life, their families, and to help sustain the beauty of our environment. I know this sounds really touchy-feely and a little crazy…but these are the things I realized. I realized that in exercising my body, that I do it not only to maintain my health, but also to keep up my strength so that I can take care of my family and support them. I do it to help my elderly neighbors if they should need me at any time. I do it for the kids in my children’s classes, when I volunteer there. I do it for everyone who can benefit from it.
I got “it”. Or at least just a small part of “it”. I saw the interconnectivity of everything and every one in my life. How we each have to rely on each other in order to live fully together. I bowed and made up a little “gratitude” verse for everything and everyone.
I especially loved the Oryoki experience. I fully immersed myself in the ritual on Day 2. It made me realize how many hands it took to grow the food, harvest it, package it, and bring it to my table; all for my and the rest of our, consumption. I realized that the amount of food that I consumed during the meal was indeed, just enough. I also realized that on so many other occasions, how I have consumed food to the extreme for so many other reasons other than for nourishment. I completed my meal with satisfaction, felt full and comfortable.
I enjoyed “praying to the crapper” and appreciated fully the fact that I have water. I have clean water to drink for life, to bathe in, to keep my body clean, etc. Everything became sacred and beautiful. I no longer complained to myself regarding the discomfort of Zazen, because I fully realized all the other comforts I have in my life.
It was humbling, it was peaceful, it was cleansing, it was beautiful! Just like experiencing the birth of my children. It was an experience I will never forget and it has opened my eyes on so many levels.
Thank you Jundo, for your time, your teachings, your sincerity and best of all your humor. Thank you to all of you for sharing your insights, opinions and your life with me and everyone else at Treeleaf. It is an honor to be here with you. Gassho…