Two weeks ago, I went into a silent retreat for a week. It was unplanned and very spontaneous. In fact, just before deciding to go into retreat I solidified an idea for next actions with my work. My work or business is a loose term I apply to all of my activities that are focused on connecting with the world outside my home. This podcast is part of my work. I have been looking for one or two areas to focus my attention for the next period of time and finally I had an idea I thought I would like to invest the time and energy into. The idea wasn’t a new one. It centered around my passions with Twelve Steps and Buddhism and was in alignment with my book: The Twelve Steps as a Path to Enlightenment – How the Buddha works the steps.
As soon as it solidified, I decided to push pause and do retreat. After all, a good idea can always wait a week or even a month. I had worked so hard to come up with an idea I could stand behind, I was wondering what would happen if I didn’t have the idea. I began to suspect that I was addicted to ideas and planning and accomplishment. I already knew I tended to keep my focus on the future. Never in the past. And being in the moment wasn’t something I did 100%, despite all spiritual teachings pointing to the fact that the moment is all we really have. Did you know that there is no scientific evidence that the past really exists! And, of course, that would be true of the future as well. There is just this one moment we can be sure of.
I went on retreat with the goal of being in the moment 100%. Of course, when I sat to meditate ideas kept popping in my head. My mind had lots of ideas to offer me. So funny! At the beginning of the retreat the ideas where about the project I had settled on. They would pop in and I would direct my focus back to my breath and my body. I would direct my focus back to what was happening in the moment, not the fantasy of the future. My mind is an amazing multi-tasker. Even focused on the breath it managed to imagine all the people and associations that could happen with my new project.
Finally, I remembered some negative associations with what I was thinking to do. I remembered I had pursued something similar before and it didn’t work out like I wanted. That was then, this is now. I know that I have tools to clear old negative associations and I have grown more. I now am confident that I can achieve whatever I am committed too. I may have to let go of the specifics, but the general idea will prevail. However, the negative thoughts cooled out my mind’s excitement for the idea. The subconscious let that idea go and started presenting me a different idea. How funny!
This next project idea was very compelling. I had been thinking about this possibility for two years. In fact, it was so compelling I would end my meditations exhausted by the constant need to let go and return to the moment. To counter this, I actually started “sitting” less and doing more movement meditation. I do vajra dance, 9 palace walking, and tai chi. But, believe it or not, I added the spiritual practice of cleaning the stairway that led to the spiritual practice of painting the foyer to the house. This required just enough focus to stay in the present to allow me to be without thoughts of my grand project.
I like that I’ve become more flexible with my practice. I used to be rigid with my practice. Now I was focused on the results I wanted and what would bring those with ease. I have learned to work with my capacity, which can change depending on circumstances.
After seven days of working with an active mind and staying focused consciously on the present I started to transition off retreat by allowing my mind to think. On day eight I wrote in my journal: For a week I put aside the many ideas and impulses that arose. Today I will think about them and plan. I remained in partial retreat for two more days. Here are my major take-homes or realizations from the retreat.
1) It doesn’t matter what I do from an intellectual standpoint.
It used to be that I was looking for the best thing to do, the most worthy project, the project that would create the most and the project that would help the most people. I was stuck in judgment. I was trying to make a decision about what to do in the present based on a projected outcome. You might call that playing “God”. I was letting my intellect rule my decision making process. I was allowing my intellect to limit my choices.
2) The key thing is that in each moment, regardless of what I am doing, that I be in my center and flow from there.
Another way to say this is to be present, to simply be, or to be connected to source at all times. I realized that I had been rushing around a lot to get to the “worthy” project in the future. For me, I knew that I needed to slow down to be more present. I also realized that staying in center and presence will create the peace and joy I claim to desire. There was really nothing else I needed to do. At this point in my life I already have an amazing partner and companion, plenty of projects to keep me entertained, and financial security. Yet, rushing around I was diminishing the peace and joy I could have been experiencing.
3) What was driving my looking to the future to create more is a desire to share what I have with others. I feel so blessed and lucky and abundant, I just want to share. However, I desire to be free of that drive. How do I do that? Well, it is simple a surrender practice. I surrender the idea that everybody doesn’t have exactly what they want in their lives and that somehow I can help them.
Does that seem like a surprising idea? Am I sure? It certainly appears that many people don’t have what they want in their lives. People are complaining all the time. But do they really not have what they desire? Have you ever offered someone a solution to a problem and they turned it down. For instance, my father had injured his leg and couldn’t walk or run like he used to. He wanted to be healed. However, when I explained to my father what he would need to do to regain full mobility in his leg, he honestly told me, “That is too much work.” He was choosing ease over full mobility. It was just a choice. He has what he desires in his life. Well, as much as he can, living in conventional reality. And he was more honest than most people. Humans don’t want to admit we don’t really want it so we come up with excuses like, “I am too busy” or “I have to do this or that” or “I just can’t do that”.
Back to my realization – which was that I would find more peace and joy if I released my need to judge people’s choices and attempt to fix them. Just because I value peace, health and prosperity and am willing to go for those things whole-heartedly doesn’t mean everyone needs to.
About a month before retreat I saw a social media post about how a lighthouse works. Lighthouses are set on the coast to prevent ships from crashing into rocks and sinking. The quote said something like: Lighthouses don’t go around looking for people to save. They simply shine their light. This is perhaps the best way to explain my deepening realization. I care for the creation around me by simply being. This reminds me of Bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means Enlightened Mind. Bodhichitta embodies that same meaning. Someone that has bodhichitta is called a bodhisattva and I was taught that anything you do when you have bodhichitta is the action of a bodhisattva. This means that when I brush my teeth or wash the dishes with the sense of caring for creation by simply being I am doing the highest good for all of humanity.
Well, that certainly takes the pressure off. No need to do anything lofty. Well actually washing the dishes becomes something lofty and there is no need to look beyond that for something I judge as more lofty. So this is the surrender. This is moving beyond judgment and discrimination. Grounded in my sense of bodhichitta and as sure as a lighthouse I simply practice being centered and aware. I have already noticed a sense of softness that I have and I am certainly not rushed.
If you are feeling stuck, or do not have the peace and joy you desire in your life I can offer you a change any thing now session. Visit my website at changeanythingnow.com to find out more. Sessions for this podcast I do for free. How does it get better than that?
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Cheery Monday by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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