This is the meditation hall at the women's retreat. I pulled an older photo from the website. There've been changes since. The carpet is no longer there, having been replaced by a smooth white cement floor which illuminates the room in a gorgeous, bright way that helps light up the mind. The way the light bounces from all directions in the room, it stimulates the mind when the eyes are closed to feel as though you are awake, aware, and instantly present.
The retreat last week was nothing short of amazing. It nurished me, deepened me, broke open my heart, and planted both of my feet firmly on the path. I feel I've talked so much about it in the last few days since being home that I find it hard to write about it now. So I'll move more into the present.
The evening I returned home was only hours following my ordination by Bhante in the eight lifetime precepts. The ceremony I took part in was so powerful. I felt totally gripped by the spirit in ways that are difficult to articulate. The most magical moment for me was immediately following the precepts, when I'd been given my pali name, had a mindfulness string tied to my wrist and a madallion placed around my neck. I crawled back to my meditation cushion at the feet of Bhante G, Ayya S and Sayalay S, with the other retreatents behind me. Bhante then began leading everyone else through the five precepts, and I closed my eyes, falling fast and deep into metta absorption. My mind was so clear and relaxed, and my entire being glowed with love and warmth for my sisters taking their five precepts. I wished them courage and strength on their path, love and happiness in their hearts, and calm, peaceful minds.
It was this final meditation at the monastery, my last and most natural (and most profoundly real), which followed me back home and transformed me. The moment I walked in the front door the extent to which I had changed and was at that moment wide open and radiating love, was so utterly poignant. I looked at my husband and as we spoke I could see him, truly see him. I felt so much love flowing through me that evening that even though I'd been awake for 22 hours, having done the entire ceremony, meditated, and drove 10 hours home, I longed with all my heart to simply go right into meditation for the rest of the night and into the dawn. The moon was full and bright in the kitchen window. I looked up into the glowing sky and felt pure exstacy, my vision somehow wider at the perifery.
I knew it would fade with time. It had to, because that is the nature of all things. Until that space has been cultivated and stabilized as a mind habit through continual daily meditation -- which may take years -- it can only stay for a little while. And this is part of the dhamma, isn't it? That all things are impermanent. That we can hold nothing, for everything, every single particle of existence, is in constant movement, flux, and flow.
And so, some meditations are productive, while some are not. I've been finding lately that my morning sessions are more of a challenge, while the evenings are more substantial and accessible. I struggle. Sometimes mindfulness is so easily available. Sometimes sitting is like repeatedly almost falling into a sleepy dream, which is the opposite of mindfulness and not meditation. I know that this too, must be taken up and used in the practice, but it is hard not to react, to not add in a sense of aversion or frustration.
It will take some more time, and some thoughtful exerpimenting, to find how the practice will fit into my life here in the city, which is drastically different from the peace and tranquility I found in the mountains last weekend. Rousing my energy up there was easier, even at 430am every morning. Here, it is much more difficult. Lethargy weighs more in the morning. Distractions are in abundance.
But when it's good, it's been real good. Like last night, coming home from spending the evening with my best friend, my heart so warm and open with love, melted and soft inside. I went right to the cushion and fell easily into a calm, concentrated space. I felt I could have stayed there for hours...