The second day kind of went as expected. I had obsessively read a number of “accounts” from people about silent retreats and understood that it can be really hard. So yea that turns out to be true. Overall though, I think my experience was pretty mild. I didn’t have a meltdown or anything. But it was trying. Day two was trying. Part of me wanted to jump to tell you about all the good stuff (Days 3 – 5) but that wouldn’t be the whole truth.
Sticky thoughts from the second day:
The mad rush for coffee and tea: I hate everyone. There are 100 of us. After the first morning sit (6:45-7:30) every single person goes to get their tea (or in my case coffee). It is a mad shit show of people trying to navigate each other without speaking. It is crushing.
When a woman gets too near me in the downstairs hall where I am practicing walking meditation, my immediate reaction is “B*%#h, no.” Then my next thought: “I am a terrible person who cannot be helped.”
Visions of myself barefoot and white haired inviting students to my garden for tea and discussions on the Paramitas.
The girl who fingers the mala beads who sits near me – “WHY.” The sound of those tiny little beads is driving me insane.
If the yoga teacher says “perhaps” one more time during this class I’ll kill her.
Why the F** is Dusty Springfield’s Wishing and Hoping stuck in my head?
Maybe I do want a farm.
Visions of myself jumping up And dancing during the seated meditation sessions. Just to remind everyone that I AM IRREVERENT. (But I’m really not so irreverent anymore it seems. I’m still sitting here. Caring about this despite the inner voice telling me to get the hell up and breathe some life into this room.)
I see a car pull out from the grounds of the retreat center and feel thankful that I don’t have a car. If I did I might jump in it and leave, head back to the land of the living. If that’s the land of the living, then where the hell are we right now?
My regular life seems very vibrant.
I am lonely.
I am doubtful. Maybe I shouldn’t have come. I should have stayed home and done something normal with my Christmas vacation. Jacki, you don’t have THAT MUCH vacation. Why are you spending five of your hard earned days alone and in silence away from everyone you love?
And later some of the worst thoughts. The ones where I convince myself that I am shitty and inadequate and not living up to my potential. The tight chest thoughts. Digging a hole of self-pity. Thoughts like, if I had just done something differently, would she/he have liked me/hired me/approved of me? What can I do differently now to be enough?
So these are the kinds of thoughts on day two. And I have no way to distract myself and they hurt. And I get lost in them for some time and then afterward beat myself up for getting lost.
At the Dharmatalk that night, one of the teachers, Luisa Montero Diaz, named my loneliness and my doubt and my self criticism. It’s normal she said. Retreats are hard. You might feel lonely or doubtful or angry.
But think of it this way, she said:
Everything can show us how we are asleep.
Yes. These challenges are reminders to wake up.
These upsetting thoughts are opportunities to practice. Chances to practice kindness toward ourselves and wake up and come back to the current moment.
Wake up. Yes. It’s all here. Right. Right. Here. Here. Peace. Happiness. It’s hidden but it’s here all the time. It needs to be remembered.
To be continued…