The weekend retreat started with a promise of self understanding and stronger ties to others in the meditation community. Eleven participants stayed the entire weekend, in a wilderness of fall colored trees, a green clay lake, deer, owls, and assorted flying and crawling critters. Two monks of the Gelukpa Tibetan Buddhist sect led the crew. I arrived late about 8pm, lost on the highway a mile above the retreat site. It’s dark on a Friday night, no moon, and an unlit unmarked gravel entrance eluded me.
Frustrated I pull to the side of the road to recheck my map. It’s pitch black in the country. Another car pulls up, another lost retreatant. We park side-by-side and discuss our whereabouts. Melody talks to a householder in his yard, who has a vague idea we are about a mile from the entrance. Another truck pulls up to offer help if needed. Recalling unpleasant situations with car troubles from my past, and distrusting a guy in a truck so late at night, I convince him we are OK. Melody and I drive forward and enter the gravel road. Having attended another event here I knew how steep the hill would become; a one way 1.25 mile path along a ridge with steep drops, and a hard right down a hill. Melody had no clue the dangers of the road, and stayed close.
My cave-like cob mud room kept me separate from others, to my disappointment. A mediation retreat is about meditating, alone. But camaraderie at night before sleep could grow friendships, but won’t happen in this lonely room. I unpacked and figured to make the most of it, as being alone is something I know lots about.
My meditation can be deep, and provides a pool of cool calmness after 10 – 15 minutes, and clear steady alertness after an hour back in life. My mind stays calm, clear for hours. When thoughts arise while sitting I pull back to the breath. The monks stop by to check on my progress after an hour. I explain my experience and understanding of it. Surprisingly, Mepham thinks I should focus on a rock more. Focus on a rock. Single-pointed meditation. My experience with this style is limited, and he caught that.
They did not say what to expect as the focus expands. How do I feel about this summary of my skill? Obstinate? Beligerant? My meditaion serves my needs and I’m happy with it. My goal is not to become a highly realized Buddha, just to live a reasonable happy life not harming others. To be of service to all beings. Am I not serious? Am I a lower meditator or self realizer? Did I make a fool of myself? Embarrase them? Waste my precious time and theirs? No, I learned this about myself: I’m just fine just as I am, on this path, continuing to learn.