It's something to look forward to whenever I get the chance to sit with others an intensive silent meditation retreat as this allows me each time to come back to a place of honesty where I can meet my own practice and, through it, my own life in a very open way.
Over the years one begins to realize and appreciate that the depth of this practice of silent sitting can never be fully plumbed. When you sit without goals, when you just sit, you encounter something boundless.
Something that doesn't come without joy as what you are sensing as unfathomable is simply the mystery of life revealing itself.
A mystery we open up to and explore more and more not in order to to find answers to our questions, whether they be existential or spiritual, rather, with a growing understanding that our task is not so much to find answers to haunting questions but perhaps more to meet life in a way that is more direct and open. Direct in the sense of immediacy without recourse to mind's conditioned way of filtering reality through categories and concepts.This is about showing up, showing up to our lives, to our relationships, to all our encounters in a more present, aware and generous way.
We begin sitting an intensive retreat often full of our own ideas about how life should be or how we and others should be to slowly realize those thoughts and expectations are actually a barrier to embracing life.
We struggle with that as this is quite frustrating but as the sitting deepens and we begin to give up on the idea of running away or changing what is unfolding into something more satisfying, we begin to get a sense of the awe of what it is to step out of one's thoughts and what they tell me about myself and the world.
Stepping out here means no longer discriminating. When this happens I come to realize that this is not about right or wrong; this is about being touched by the wind as I step outside my house in the morning no longer asking myself from which direction it is coming.
Thoughts keep coming and going but then that is all right for it is in the nature of things to come and go; I don't have to oppose that movement nor do I have to follow it.
Sitting's gift is that it allows me to get out of my own way the time it takes to sense through the pores the unifying force of existence. Getting out of our own way is uplifting and refreshing and has a sense of freedom to it.
This experience will not necessarily change anyone's life. To seek change misses an essential point. Nothing like an intense meditation practice to sober us from our age driven obsession with self-improvement. Self-concern does not free us from suffering, it tends to amplify it and that's what self-improvement is in essence, a commerce with oneself that never really ends whereas peace is in the self-forgetting.
Meditation does not take you to an elsewhere where you feel better about who you are. On the contrary, it makes you come full circle back to who you truly are, it helps you to open up, settle in and become intimate with uncomfortable parts of yourself, the parts you usually neglect or reject: those parts that we spend much time and energy trying to flee or transform. This is homecoming and this is what maitri is; showing up for life in a full spectrum way without posing any terms and conditions.
And that's when the mystery starts to unfold: bringing kindness and acceptance to who we are cracks us open to the pain and joy of others, which is another way of speaking about compassion. And speaking of compassion, isn't that our true abode, where we come from and where we ultimately return to?