Updated: Apr 27
For a period of time, the March 2023 silent retreat in Bali was not going to happen for me.
Due to passport issues, my partner and I got “stuck" in a foreign country, prior to traveling to Indonesia. As the days crept along, cutting into our plans, we forfeited a long anticipated diving trip in Raja Ampat, then a week long stay in South Bali. We were disappointed at our loss for what could be, and dismayed at the situation happening to us there.
Once arriving in Bali, I learned that I had to shorten my silent retreat (for reasons completely out of my or the retreat team’s control).
I clung to the idea of long awaited plans and expectations of how they would go. I lamented the time I put into planning the trip thus far, and dreams of what I was going to get out of it. I read half of the recommended pre-retreat book - perhaps “half” of a retreat would be ‘enough?’ These were the thoughts and anxieties I held onto.
Eventually I realized that this whole experience, long before the retreat began, was a lesson in presence and acceptance. A lesson that was deepened by my silent practice at Yogi’s Garden, Bali, from March 25-28.
Sitting in Zazen with the group, I experienced and let go of the thoughts and chatter that entered my mind. I felt and then released the discomfort that crept into my legs. Over and over again, I opened up to the now: that which is there when you let go of the past which already happened, and the future which you cannot control. I opened up to and accepted the moment, and the self, which is all there truly is.
During one of the retreat talks, our facilitator Hamid shared one of the teachings of Master Chungya Trungpa that gave me deep insight on my situation: We tend to think that the path emerges once it is freed of obstacles, for once we remove these obstacles, it is there that we will attain happiness. This is not seeing the true nature of reality. In reality, it is the obstacles that are the path.
We can either meet and go through life’s obstacles with ease, or resist, struggle, and lament them. For me, each obstacle that I experienced up to that point was an opportunity to meet the moment, and come back to the present self. Not a past or future self. Likewise, each thought that arose during Zazen was an opportunity to accept it and come back to the self, by not shielding myself from or clinging to these thoughts.
It was these opportunities and coming back to the self that I had been seeking all along.
The retreat was never really “shortened" for me. Likewise, the situation in the foreign country never really “happened to me.” They happened either way, and were opportunities to be present and recognize everything that I have in each moment. In the end, I was still able to dive, spend time with family, deepen my spirituality, and meet new friends on the trip. I carry all of these things with me into this moment here and now as I write this, with great peace and satisfaction. All of it was exactly what it needed to be.