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What is this life?


Jul 27

Written by: seemingly
7/27/2009 3:41 PM

Looking back at a recent retreat


TAT Men's Retreat

Sunday June 7th - Friday June 12th

The retreat in June was very helpful in getting into a productive state of mind and for increasing my interest in the spiritual search. My goals for going into the retreat were threefold:

-More inspiration to move in the direction I need to move in.

-Finding out what that direction is.

-I want to get and give valuable feedback, be a mirror.

Before the retreat we choose practices that we thought would help us. I chose for myself, celibacy and media fast. Doing these things before the retreat felt like I was already in retreat for a month before going. I had a rough time and my mind fought for entertainment instead of watching its own mechanisms. However, the mind-state going into the retreat was one of trying based on faith -- faith that this would be helpful.

Some of the things on my mind before the retreat:

-Wondering what my purpose in life is (job, or what I'm meant to do)

-Feeling lack of motivation for anything, apathy, disinterest in life

-Feeling addicted to watching movies and playing video games (If you ever get a chance to play World of Warcraft...take my advice...DON'T! ;)

-Feeling lack of self-control and judging myself/self-sabotage

We were asked to write an essay about what we know so far about ourselves on the spiritual path. Here is my response:

What have you learned about yourself so far on the spiritual path?

Going into the retreat was like most meetings with friends of a spiritual nature. I'm usually happier, sometimes a bit anxious because I don't know what will happen, but usually just looking forward to a place to be open, honest and, for a while, possibly more free.

At the start we were asked to write down one word that describes what we're looking looking for or what we felt was missing. I wrote down 'Meaning.' We wrote these on 3x5 index cards and displayed them for everyone to see in the cabins. If our word was to change during the week, we were asked to tell the group it changed and explain why.

We were asked to observe every else and try to pick up on their emotional state of mind by 'listening to the mood underneath the words.'

During the retreat we had rapport sittings in silence which would help us pick up on other's moods. I didn't really get a good read on anyone but did notice there were some moods which a couple of people seem to gravitate towards -- openness -- which was a good thing.

Monday was our day of silence for the most part and it was very good. We all kind of synced up and the past and the burdens of life back home got set aside for a while so we could focus on the task at hand. It felt good to not have to talk during the retreat at the beginning. I wrote in my journal: "the silence feels like less judgement (or projected judgement), and makes it seem easier to get along." Also wrote down that it might be nice to try this silent time while watching a movie like Into Great Silence. I wanted to talk though during parts of the silence. We had silence in the mornings before Noon. I think this should be silence before 9AM as Noon was kind of late to be silent. The mornings were used for breakfast, meditation, walks/exercise, and quiet contemplation time.

During that evening, we had a couple exercises where we were counting our breath and counting our steps while walking in a circle together. This was for getting everyone in the same mind state to facilitate rapport, I believe. We also did a numbers game exercise (lots of distracting background noise from spiritual materials videos and audio as well as music) while trying to add numbers in our heads that were read to us by our partners. The purpose of this was to help intuition.

Art talked about prime numbers, you can only be divided by yourself and edge detection, you can see where you start and end. He talked about Jill Bolte Taylor, who had a stroke leading to a loss of the sense of self. Her body knew what do during her recovery of eight years (such as just roll over or relearn how to walk). Random note in journal from that evening: you have a say about emotions (whether to keep them going or not).

Art mentioned a couple of pieces of key advice of the stages:

Admit you don't know what you are. Ask yourself: Does it bother you you don't know what you are?

Intuit that knowing is the cure.

Knowing it.

1) Slow down

2) Open up

3) Get out of your own way

1) To slow down: First decide you're not in a hurry. Become aware of the extraneous thoughts. Thank them and ask them to go away for a while. You can always come back to them later. (This reminds me of Rumi's Guesthouse.)

2) To open up means really listening. Seeing what's in front of you you without allowing distractions.

Art relayed a quote from Chuck Norris's teacher:

“Your mind is not here,” he said.
I made no effort to deny he was right;
students of martial arts soon learn that their teachers
can see right through them. Standing there on the
hard ground in Korea, I just bowed my head slightly
and waited for Mr. Shin to continue.
What you are doing at the moment
must be exactly what you are doing
at the moment—and nothing else
” …
Mr. Shin’s advice, my first lesson in Zen,
came back to me again and again
during my years as a competitor.
-Chuck Norris, The Secret Power Within

Art said Richard Rose mentioned "I'd rather have no thoughts than thoughts that are not relevant."

We can procrastinate that line of thinking. I can come back to these thoughts later.

3) To get out of your own way:

1) Make the choice to get out of your own way.

2) Be very careful of your self-talk (self-talk is stuff you listen to in your thoughts and self-beliefs).

3) Focus on your ability and not your disability (always eye up the goal)

4) We can't do it alone. Need to welcome support, help and love from others.

Tuesday 6/9, "Did another walk this morning. The silence is hard to deal with. I just want to talk/communicate/share. My mind is starting to get bored and needs distractions. Thus this journal entry."

That afternoon we had a session which were to write a stream of consciousness for a couple minutes then a poem in response to what came up from this poem:

"All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why." -Thurber, James

This seemed to be the turn around point for the retreat as we all were moved by the poems and the retreat but this really put it together and brought everyone closer. It felt more serious at this point and more alive when everyone shared their poems. One suggestion that came up was to try to write a poem with your other hand (left hand if you're normally right handed) as this may come from the other side of the brain.

Our next session was Practical/Tactical Seeking where we shared our practices and came to some similar conclusions on what is useful. See here for more on this session:

Practical/Tactical Seeking (Spritual Actions)

Wednesday evening my mood was slipping into another mood but it was a bit subtle at first this limited my ability to take useful notes but I'll post what notes I did take. We had another session here about Fear as an obstacle on the path. My notes from that session:

-Fear of death is compensated by pride.

-Pride hides the doubt which is needed for finding the truth about death.

-Admit death is real to face death.

-Is there a step on your path you feel called to take but are afraid to do so out of fear?

A couple of people at this point by Wednesday had already changed their 'words'. I changed my word once, mid-way through the week. During a numbers game exercise, I was feeling less and less interested in all the goings-on 'out there' and was listening to Mr. Rose from the video Mr. Rose and felt a mood of longing. This hit me more than would have usually occurred around that time and I changed my word to 'Life.' I felt that hit home as finding what I was would be to find out what is alive.

Also this change was noted in my journal, which went from logical list and paragraph based notes, to random notes and 'doodlings'.

Another session Wednesday night was about Goal Setting and Achievement based on personal development. This was set up similar to Bart Marshall's Ultimate Betweenness. We wrote down I want to.... I am .... where ... is the goal you want to achieve such as finding the Truth or being successful at something. Then this was broken down into projects. The projects were broken down into minor goals.

On Thursday night we did a session on dreams. The technique is from Eddie Traversa: Uber Dream Analysis. We did that then shared our dreams and those who volunteered to share allowed the others to interpret the dream as if it were your own dream. If this were my dream it would mean...this person would represent...Art suggested it's best to determine first if the dream is about oneself or about others. Do the characters in the dream represent parts of myself or are they about their waking life counterparts?

Has this retreat generated any new or redirected action?

Since the retreat, (it's been about a month and a half now), I have felt more inspired and interested in looking for an answer, the answer, Truth. The direction I wanted to know I feel I have a little bit of a clue now, by admitting I do not know what my path consists of but feel that openness is useful in this task. I might be more accident prone if I throw myself out there and continue to look under every rock, even the rocks that my whole being resists out of fear. Some practices to try and some inspirations have been gained from the retreat. My focus before this retreat was on video games and entertainment movies. Now it is more on getting down to what matters in life and wondering what it's all about.... Also it seems time is slowing down. That may just be some crazy perceptual thing as time seemed to speed up for me for most of my life but now it seems that I've lived a year in the past two months. Strange and I don't know if it has any bearing on the path but that is my experience.

Also, the shared experience of working with others at the only thing there is to really work for (Truth, Enlightenment, Peace, Life, Meaning, Etc) is something you need to see for yourself. Worth it? Definitely.


1 comments so far...

Re: Looking back at a recent retreat

Thanks for taking the time to write & post this reveiw. It's comprehensive, and then some. MC

By Michael on   8/4/2009 10:40 AM

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