Monday, August 13, 2007

Back from the retreat

Where to begin...

Mrs M & I came back from our 4 day Buddhist Retreat last night. Powerful.

So much for thinking I'd take my sketch pad with. I'd forgotten how intense retreats are. The whole day was structured from 6am in the morning til 10pm at night. At least 4 hours of meditation a day (but seldom more than half an hour in one shot), and sitting cross-legged listening to teachings the rest of the time (except for meal & tea breaks)

Although Mrs M & I don't really follow any particular lineage of Buddhism, the centre we went to is a Tibetan School of the Kagyu lineage. I've always been reluctant to align myself with one particular "approach", but it is urgently evident now that if we want to connect with a Buddhist community we need to commit to certain teachers and lineages. So be it.

And perhaps the biggest thing I learnt this weekend is that community is important. And perhaps it is therefore no surprise that that is the aspect of the weekend that I struggled most with. Working in a large office in town, Mrs M is used to other people being around all the time. Not BPG (!!!), the hermit crab who is lucky if he sees one person other than Mrs M in a usual day. So being surrounded in close, and intimate spaces with 12 others put quite a bit of strain on me.

And again it was the violent hand tremor that put the pressure. We all ate meals at one long table and BPG's plate-to-mouth antics were glaring. So too were his shaking limbs in the Tai Chi movements and stretches. And I got caught in a spiral, more shakes - more anxiety, more shakes, more anxiety. The anxiety, as always, was of my own manufacture, as I was surrounded by some of the most non-judgemental and compassionate people I have ever met.

Yeah, it wasn't depression that I had to face - it was anxiety. I've still got HUGE unresolved anxiety issues. When I'm fortressed up in my molusk shell it's easy to forget.

Anyway, enough about me. Shell-Fish-ness is something I need to work on. (no coincidence that I'm a Cancerian). And it's a simple formula really: Wanna reduce self-consciousness?? -> Reduce sense of Self. Less Self -> Less self-consciousness.

From our teacher:

To help others help yourself,
To help yourself, help others


  1. Just a note: long periods of meditation may not be good for you. It's like running or eating or anything else that is good. Too much can be bad.

    If you find neurological symptoms such as anxiety or shaking occurring, you need to consult with your psychiatrist/therapist about the wisdom of continuing.

    for a start. (Again, it is long periods that may not be good for you. Half an hour a day is fine.)

  2. Wow--may I ask some questions? I'm kind of curious. So, you've chosen Buddhism or some aspects of it. I never heard you talk about. And BPG is new to me. There IS a dimension emerging which is interesting to me, though it might be too personal for you to discuss. I read warrior scout in a busy, fufilling, wonderful life, and now I see more--or other. I am fascinated.

    For me, real meditation seems to come through swimming. When I do aerobics first, my exhausted body responds to water as if I am a fish. Those extended moments are the only way I've ever found the peace of meditation.

  3. gay bipolar guy: Thicht Naht Hahn is the Buddhist for you! ;)


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