Our sesshin (silent meditation retreat) in Monchique, South Portugal, is less than a month away. Some of you have written to express your interest but find it difficult to come for financial reasons. Some others feel you are not in a good enough space to get involved with intensive meditation practice, that it may become overwhelming. Whatever that may be, in the words of Jim Morrison of the Doors, what a lyricist: The time to hesitate is through!
Reflecting on these obstacles I would like to dedicate this meditation retreat to the broke and the broken.
May I add being broke and broken are life long attributes of mine, they resonate and apply to me. Money has never attracted me, one thing I will leave this world never quite understanding is the incredible force of seduction it has for so many. Am I missing out on something? My dumb side I guess prevents me from seeing the obvious. Then, I also feel very much broken as a person. For the most part, I didn't ask for any of it, it was generously offered. A lifetime spent refusing and fighting that, lacking imagination I guess I thought this was not something one could accept as one accepts an inheritance. Only deeply wounded individuals can accompany others to the depth of their own wounding, hence my vocation as a healer, unlike much else it's not vanity that brought me here.
If you are short of money and still want to come, please let us know, together we will find a way to allow you to join and practice with us. We need to make this work but money need not interfere with a genuine desire to practice. If someone cannot practice because of lack of funds then this says something about the nature of what is being proposed as a practice. As we all know, the drive for money and the greed behind it is polluting much of what is happening on a scene that for want of a better word I have to hold my nose and call spiritual.
Where is the essence of the spirit in the practices we call spiritual today? Are we even interested in the question? It seems the collusion of money and spirituality does not raise many eyebrows! But if we look deeply enough into this question perhaps we have a glimpse of understanding as to why so much around us has become soulless and stale. The question I am asking myself and you is an echo of T.S.Eliot's broader question of our times: Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
And if you feel you are broken, lost, in pain, confused and without a direction in life at the moment then I would say this is a great place to delve into sustained meditation practice. I am happy to meet you right where you are not where you feel you need to be. Right where you are that is where you meet your life, right there in the middle of whatever is unfolding or unraveling is where you need to show up for your existence. Paying attention to where you are, bringing some measure of kindness and acceptance to it may prove far more more helpful than imagining yourself in a better place.
Of course, if you are thinking in terms of gaining something out of a meditation practice then not knowing what you want and where you are going may stand in the way of your practice. But what if there is nothing to gain but lots to lose? What if meditation is more about ungrasping and letting go of whatever the mind creates, including ideas about realization and awakening, and just paying attention to what arises right now without trying to define it by using any of our habituated categories!
What happens when I ungrasp whatever arises in the mind, what happens when I cease identifying, denying or struggling with it? What if I began to see my thoughts and emotions differently; as clouds passing in the sky rather than solid realities? We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon (Shelly)
Sitting and beginning to see that whatever the mind creates like everything else in life is in movement, is passing, can be freeing. If passingness is the nature of things then what is it that I can grasp, what is it that I wish to attain? And this is a central point in Buddhist teachings, as said in a sutra: The mind that does not dwell on anything is the true mind.
Awakening to this is what we mean when we say; we practice out of this moment, right this moment, just this moment. When past and future are cut off then it is the awareness and practice of right this moment. And that cuts right through whatever separates you from your life, from all life. Amen
l'habit ne fait pas le moine/the cowl does not make the monk : my monk's robe, nice, france, 2007