Ajahn Brahm’s 2010 retreat …a testimony of Good, Bad and Ugly.
After years of listening to Ajahn’s CD/mp3 of various Dhamma talks which have kept me both alive and aloft thru the ups and downs for the last few years(besides keeping me awake during my daily commute to work), I finally able to attend this year’s retreat. It’s like a fan who finally met his idol in a live concert. It was I think my 3rd attempt that I finally got in(due to my failure to submit the form earlier). At least I could closed on one of my 2010 New Year resolution. So, allow me to share my inner thoughts and experience in this very short retreat which I shy to say that it’s one of my longest retreat I went for after left USM in ’99.
So for the start….The Good
First of all I felt so fortunate and grateful to be physical and mentally healthy to join the retreat which conducted by Ajahn, a wise and compassionate monk. I had one of the best sitting meditations in this retreat. Ajahn’s retreat style is very much different in the sense that it is less controlling and more relaxing for the retreatants to practice our meditation. The method is to be kind to our self and instead of using force, we use kindness. So we were left to decide what type of posture we want, whether it’s sitting on the chair, leaning to the wall, lying down or even just go to sleep if we feel too drowsy to meditate. It took me awhile before I can adjust to this relax type of retreat as I was trained thru the intensive way. 2 take away I’ve learned from this retreat. 1st …to still the mind is thru inaction instead of forceful action to still the mind. The simile given by Ajahn was simply enlightening. He held up a cup on his hand and ask us if the water is still. The answer of course no…so how to make the water still? Just let it go. Put the cup on the table and soon the water in the cup eventually be still. Similarly to our meditation, to still our mind we are not required to control our thinking thoughts, drowsiness or breathing. Don’t hold to the past or future. Just let it go. Don’t force the breath. Just be an observer and put kindness to the whole meditation process. Second take away was the “3rd type of love” (1st type is the romance type, 2nd the mother to child type of love and 3rd unconditional to others and oneself). It’s about how to be kind and accept ourselves completely, good or bad. As Ajahn mentioned in one of his nightly talks, to open the door of our hearts to ourselves and others. I have to learn to accept myself of who I am first before expecting myself being a better person.
That’s brings me to the “Bad” part. I felt all these years I’ve been living a tense life. I’ve been pullin the string to tight. I soon realized that I’ve been giving unrealistic expectation to myself. Though I thought I know what is relax, in fact I don’t. Every single things been done per schedule even for a family vacation trip and even in this retreat. Following by the hour, even I plan to the details of what time to sit and when to walk and count how many hours I’ve been sitting there. In this moment I realize I’ve not been really relaxing. Relax, I soon realized it’s not about what we can achieve but everything to do on how much I can let go. to be able to smell the roses along the path of life. What is done, is finish. (for those attended Ajahn’s nightly talk will know what it means).
& The Ugly
As this is a very short retreat, I tried to exert myself in my practice. But too much. Didn’t realize the more I exert myself the more agitated I was. Firstly I was agitated with the organizer, then the retreatants and then myself and perfectly everybody! Although it has nothing to do with anyone besides myself. I see how my anger, hatred and frustration build up in me. It was not definitely pleasant to see this ugly side especially it is more pronounced when the mind is clearer. It was then that I realized I’ve been trying to suppress all these negative feelings until I put my mind to observe it and not rejecting it. the more I observe the more of these feelings showing up one by one…especially craving and anger.
All in All
As a whole, this retreat indeed helped me in looking deeper into this self. At the same time it is a step closer to achieve the clarity of mind and definitely a boost to my faith in Buddha Dhamma. I really felt thankful for Ajahn Brahm’s compassion and wisdom. As what mentioned by Ajahn, if we want to thank our teacher the best way is to help others. In this way it will to keep the wheel turning, to keep the sasana alive.
I wish all of you have the blessings and opportunity to attend Ajahn Brahm’s retreat in future. For those who have attended the self improvement seminars and workshops out there, you will know that it sometimes cost a fortune. For this retreat, as Ajahn put it, it’s just priceless (in other words totally FOC). It is incomparable as what I got out from this retreat will help me in my spiritual awakening and at the same time apply in my worldly pursue. A realization that money can’t buy.
As a last note, people always says that opportunity don’t knock at our door twice but I would say that sometimes certain opportunity knocks at us every single time. However the question to answer is, how sure we still able to answer to the call when it knocks the very next time. This is the question that keep me going in my Dhamma cultivation.
Happy New Year! May all be well and happy learning the Dhamma…