It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about my spiritual quests. I mean, originally, way back when, that was sort of the point of this whole blog. I even named it Stumbling Along The Path to imply that this blog would be about one woman’s foibles as she pursues a spiritual path, a Buddhist path, a path to enlightenment even. I documented my life both in, but mostly out of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). Since I left the NKT about a year and a half ago, I’ve been seeing different teachers and traditions, though nothing steady. When I stumbled out of the NKT I was left somewhat bruised and a little wary. While it didn’t stop me from continuing along the path, my steps were a bit more tentative. I didn’t want to start plodding along another path until I was fairly certain of where it would lead.
Today, however, I’ve taken a big step. You see, I’ve been flirting with Theravadan Buddhism for a while now. I took a series of classes in Vipassana meditation last year, and would, when I could find parking (that is another post all together) go to teachings in Berkeley. And then a few weeks back, on quite the spur of the moment, I signed up for the first of three ten-week classes at Spirit Rock called “Essential Dharma”. And while I have not been as diligent about doing the homework and readings as I probably should be, I do appreciate having that weekly obligation that keeps me engaged in my practice. I’ve found without some structure, it becomes far too easy for me to stray from any practice at all.
But today, I finally dove in and signed up for a week-long residential retreat out at Spirit Rock. Silent retreat. Getting up at the crack of dawn retreat. Sharing a room with a complete stranger and a communal bathroom down the hall retreat. I’m equal parts excited and nervous. I’m nervous because adhering to a rigid early morning schedule is not my thing, and especially a little scared of not having access to any means of escape from my own mind. No computers, no phone, no TV, no idle chatter. But, I am excited about the prospect of being able to really deepen my practice and develop my concentration.
Back in my NKT days, I used to tell people that I was going “on retreat” when I was going to an NKT Festival. I think it was just easier that way. If I had told them I was going to a “festival” I would have to explain how being stuck in a moldy hotel in the Catskills or priory in Northern England was in any way festive. But, while we were all sequestered away from the “real” world for a period of time, retreating in our own way, it was far from austere and contemplative. And yes, I did do the Vajrayogini retreat where I spent two of the weeks alone and fairly concentrated, but I was in the comfort of my own home, my protective cocoon. So, this coming retreat feels like it will be my first real, serious meditation retreat.
I trust I will be in good hands. Unlike in the NKT where your teacher may have less experience than you in terms of practice, the teachers at Spirit Rock have been around the practice for a very long time, and are very experienced in leading retreats. So, when my head starts to explode, I feel safe that I’ll get good counsel from one of the retreat leaders.
Now, if I can only get over my fear of communal bathrooms, I think I’ll be all right.