Seduced by the external world, our mind goes on overdrive, our body puts off needed repairs and long-term projects and our spirit or natural state gets pushed further and further down and become less accessible. Enlightenment is easy, it is taught. It's as easy as looking at the other side of our hand. But, in order to catch a glimpse of our natural state, full of ease and compassion, we need to clear some space.....
I just emerged from a six week retreat at a Budhhist center in the Mendicino forest. I was in silence some of the time, serving at the center with others some of the time, in teachings with hundreds some of the time, by myself for most of the day at other times. But, my consistent practice throughout was to cultivate ease and “relaxment”. There is a zen saying “eat when you're hungry and sleep when you're tired”. It is near impossible to do this kind of practice when you are in our busy citified world. You may want to relax and just be but soon after sitting you hear nagging voices of “you should be doing something!” which it is too easy to give into.
The first two weeks of my retreat I spent many many hours just laying in my tent or sitting by the river. Letting my mind wind itself out. When my mind really needed something to chew on I would give it a book and read voraciously for a couple of days and then it was spent. When the Tibetan teachers arrived I found that I had a profound ability to sit and focus. The teacher taught for 5 hours some days and while I did get thirsty and hungry and had to go to the bathroom, I wasn't just waiting for the teachings to be over. I could just be...most importantly I think, I could just be with MYSELF.
One of the teachers I had the honor to sit with, Khandro Rinpoche, spoke of a complex we have in the west she called “poverty mentality”. Due to the economic and cultural system we've been brought up in, our self-worth is based on doing and accomplishing not on how kind and generous we are as people. We define ourselves based on our relationship to external people, objects and ideas instead of cultivating an inner self-confidence in our innate goodness. This innate goodness is just that, innate, meaning it is already there. It is obscured by the dust of negative thoughts and emotions.
Think of a small pond with clear water. That is our natural mind. We stir it up and the clarity becomes muddied. If we keep stomping around in there it just gets worse and worse and harder for the dust to clear. But, if we wait, sit still, stop groping outwards with our senses, the dust will settle, and the water will begin to feel clear and nourishing again.
This is why we need retreat in our spiritual practice, in our lives. We need to let the dust settle, to reaquaint ourselves with our SELF, or our true nature of mind as it is called in the Dzogchen teachings. This is helpful to do with others, a community of support, and with a teacher, a spiritual friend who can help guide you.
I am part of two retreats coming up, one local in California and the other on the Big Island of Hawaii. I invite you to invest in this process with me and others in support of your well-being and liberation.