into the theatre of my life
after 39 days immersion in a
silent Dzochen retreat
I recently came upon a journal written on a 6 week silent Dzogchen retreat at Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre in Nelson, Aotearoa-New Zealand, in 2010. (The Lama had asked me to do this as part of my practice.) Other writings from this period have been posted at this unlit light blog but the scribblings in this journal haven’t been shared before. The one above, written on the last day of silence, packed a punch from which I will never recover.
This is what happens on a retreat that goes long enough, deep enough, wide enough – you get ripped in three and re-braided.
“formations”? – anything that takes shape in consciousness: a thought, a feeling, a memory, a story, a self, an other…
“universe”? – the changeless, ever-present, immeasurable, all-inclusive and inescapable THIS.
“preferred”? – by whom? by what? (there being no chooser to be found) By the universe ITself, as the miraculous and incomprehensible expression of ITself.
“why”? – make up a good story; it doesn’t matter what you conceive … all stories are formations, fluffy consolations for a mind made redundant.
(Best not to attend such retreats unless prepared for obliteration of the old concepts and fixations around self-identity and world-view.)
who are you
when you’re not constantly
on social media?
when you’re not sharing
your selfies, your mundane and mediocre
when you’re not broadcasting
your insights, your threadbare, faded
what do you see
when you’re not there
telling yourself the old stories
(identify – label – judge)?
when there’s no observer
standing separate from
texture, color, energy?
when time and space
disappear, taking out your memorybank (poof!)
leaving . . . . . . . . . what?
who are you in that apocalyptic instant
when you realise that
every hard-earned conviction you hold
is merely an empty concept?
who are you when you aren’t there?
[conceptual answers not permitted; keep emptying!]
Drawing by Michael Leunig – it also accompanies this post from the early days of ‘the echoes’:
sitting in this leaky boat called ‘me’
the seeing of It:
the ripples and reflections
the surface and the cool depth
the sun-snatching edges and the calm continuo
the tones, textures, colours
the watching of It:
the naming and the recalling
the emotional embroidery, the visceral memories
(pain and pleasure both flushed my cheeks
on that windswept isle in the Canaries)
the knowing of It:
all that unfolds before, behind, within and throughout me
as this world I call ‘mine’
shimmers fluidly in a center-less, owner-less
I am Not,
but the Universe is my Self.
– Shih-T’ou, A.D. 700-790
Image – swimming pool reflections captured on a long-ago vacation; Lanzarote, Canary Islands
propelled by memories of childhood intimidation
I toppled into the Venus flytrap called wee-me
my body’s ultra-sticky reflexive reactions
instantly creating a powerless self
that set about consuming itself
propelled by the practice of presence
I fell back into the changeless nameless
where nothing can stick or stain
and neither self nor no-self are on the menu
Tamborine Mountain, in the great down-under called Oz, wraps its stony self in subtropical rainforest garb. Peering through spaces in the forest bordering this property I see cultivated areas of huge avocado and macadamia nut trees. There’s a large tree massed with flowers of scarlet. Beyond, there’s a stand of huge eucalypts, and it’s through their open arms that the sky shows gold, then pearl, as the great Shining climbs out of the Pacific and over the rainforest rim.
I notice that as this verdant vista unfolds in perception, it brings up a bouquet of similar delights archived in this particular memory: Normandie, Norway and New Zealand, the English Lake District, Uttarkashi in the Himalaya, and the Western Ghats in Kerala, India. Each vignette bears its unique geographical and chronological label, yet all places and all times exist nowhere but now–here in this vastness of mind.
Creativity cuts through a pattern of thought that has become habitual and reflexive. Yesterday there was the freight train analogy; today – an oceanic oil slick comes to mind.
Habitual patterns of thought are like oil slicks on the surface of oceanic mind.
Oil slicks can be exquisitely patterned. The patterns are complex and colorful; they can rearrange themselves in endless variations. Attractive and seductive – yet how lethal when spread over the living, breathing, ecosystem of an earth ocean!
Mental oil slicks operate in the same suffocating manner. They contain only one component – the output of the conditioned memory machine.
And in the manner of an earthly ocean, when oceanic mind stirs up a storm (with a few fearless questions), crashing waves and spray break up the oil slick.
Even if the break is only temporary, Creation will have had a say.
Creativity will have surfaced.
The ruts made by a million meanderings of the Memory Bus down Habit Avenue are deep.
Little wonder then that the bus finds it easy to continue to follow them along – even after a whiff of wild wideawakeness. It’s easy to drop back into default dualism when this happens, to be unsettled, and critical of a ‘clarity’ that’s become objectified and ‘owned.’
But what I’m noticing is that there’s an immediate and spontaneous awareness of what’s going on (mindless habitude), of where one is (in Rutsville), and an equally spontaneous elevation (yes it feels like that – like just floating up) from the rut. Oh!
Another dead petal drops off the lifebloom, floats serenely to the ground without one having to do a single thing, think a single thought, or choose one state over the other.
Life’s driving, whether one’s in the ruts or out. And Life’s wearing one’s very own name-tag. So what’s the big deal?