I’m a little past the halfway point in the program. Today I returned from a 24 hour zen retreat in which I was the main jikido, meaning I rang bells and helped prepare the zendo for zazen (seated meditation). This time was spent partly in silence ( I had to speak to perform my duties) and was entirely devoted to nothing but meditation.
Retreats are important. This world, this society, the way things are done is, most of the time, not conducive to inner peace and happiness. Though these extended periods of austere conditions and turning inwards are indeed difficult, the benefit they pose outweighs the benefits of money, fancy restaurants, and the like. What’s most stunning about a retreat is returning to the world afterward. One begins to realize the things they tuned out, what they’re conditioned to see, hear, or think. For myself, when I finished my first intensive stint meditating, I realized how insane it was that almost everywhere I went there was music playing. The speed at which the world moved also shocked me. Nearly everyone is in a hurry and if you’re not, you’re like to draw attention to yourself. On top of that, I was surprised by how much people talked. I spoke a lot less time talking during my first retreat and I grew to find smalltalk and the like a waste of time and energy.
I reflect on this for the sake of guarding my heart and mind. Understanding the value, and the privilege, of participating such things entails not taking them for granted. This Zen retreat didn’t go as well as I hoped; but, I did it. The ability to take the time to do it is in and of itself a privilege and completing what was set out to do and spreading the benefits is an expression of gratitude.
The chicken pictured here comes from Wat Doi Suthep. It goes that this chicken hung around the temple and would peck anyone whose shoes were on in the holier spots (where one is supposed to take off their shoes). I love it. One should do the same with their own heart. Whenever some trash comes mozzying around the mind, go ahead and peck at it til it runs off.
Thank you for reading and I hope all are well, take care.