I went on a 7 day retreat at Gaia House: Embodying the Awakening Heart, with Yanai Postelnik & Leela Sarti.
My general aims were to surrender into the stillness that continues to grow in my daily experience, and to explore the long-term energetic tensions that I feel in my throat and forehead.
The first full day was very difficult - throat opened up right away and produced a lot of fear and worry towards anything it could latch on to. Settled into things on days 2 and 3, lots of open-eye sits to combat sleepiness. Then began to feel more intimately into the throat and ajna tensions, approaching and seeing from different angles, as I have done before. This sometimes changes the feel of the tensions, or includes them in a more satisfying way.
I played with this for a while with different results, but when it came down to it I was still just resisting experience through trying to manipulate it. And it hurt. I realised that my concern with understanding these tensions was a basic lack of trust in experience, a lack of faith in awakening itself. The illusion that I had to do something important to get rid of these sensations that I'd decided were unsatisfactory. Whilst doing some walking meditation I realised what was going on, and the latter part of this quote popped into my head:
"How could fully engaging with the sense world possibly corrupt the innate freedom of the heart? This freedom is uninterruptable, incorruptible, unconfusable by any sense experience. Therefore why not allow it all in? By openly, freely acknowledging the limited, the unlimited manifests its full potential. If there is hesitancy and the caution to keep the conditioned at bay, that betrays a basic lack of faith in the natural inviolability of the unconditioned."
- Small Boat, Great Mountain (Ajahn Amaro)
I realised how there was still a basic aversion to the tensions; not liking their iron-like solidity in comparison to the rest of the free-flowing body sensations. There was also a worry that in fully feeling the tension I would be creating some kind of attachment to it. I'm not sure when this fear of creating/strengthening attachment begun but when I saw it clearly I realised how much that anxiety had dominated my practice in recent years.
So during the next sit I gave up all of that, and just let the hard, dense tensions be as they are, continuous yet distinct from the rest of experience. This quickly resulted in a strong unitary trance, culminating in a familiar but strong energy rush, which ended with some energy dropping down to the pelvic floor. That's usually when my hips starting rocking and my abs contract sporadically, but this time the energy felt fully grounded and something opened at the pelvic floor, like a plug hole. I felt a deepened sense of stillness, infused with an immense power that was new to me. Not power I could yield, but the pure power to conjure up anything from thoughts to continents. This is still developing post-retreat and I can feel it in the day and when sitting if I turn my attention there.
After a few days of letting the tensions be as they are (duh) I had another insight. Leela mentioned something about identifying with mind states. In an instant I saw how, despite being able to see the 3 characterisitcs effortlessly throughout experience, there was still an attachment to the sum-total feeling quality of experience itself; like a progress indiciator of how practice was working out.
If things were vast, clear, and light, then practice was going well. If things felt tight and contracted, then I was doing something wrong. These are not unreasonable assumptions, and have probably helped guide my practice over the years. But ultimately ALL experience is conditioned, and none of it is I, me or mine. It is as it is, outside of my control. This gave rise to a profound equanimity that felt independent of anything in experience, in a way I had not quite grasped before.
- Took metta more seriously and got a feel for its transformative quality. Forgiveness metta was powerful. For all beings who have harmed me, intentionally or unintentionally, I forgive you (notice the weight drop). And: I offer my forgiveness to all beings I've harmed, intentionally or unintentionally. Please forgive me (notice the vulnerability).
- Very clear soft stillness developing in the chest/heart area. Think I first felt this during the metta. An intimate stillness that I can tune into if I focus on the breath at the heart centre.
- Much less fantasising than last retreat. Just getting on with my own thing, no need to leave my mark, or even a trace...