I went on a meditation semi-retreat this weekend. (That is, we went and studied/meditated all day, and then went home in between.) Like all my experiences of retreat, it was a lot like getting sandblasted. Gently.
At the end of the first day, I went home and I cried. I felt so lonely, and I said to my friends that nobody ever touches one another, and there is no body in Buddhism. We’re open to the suffering of the world, stripped bare, and I really want a hug!
I was bereft.
And the next day I went back. In the morning, the teaching was on the importance of embodiment. Worthiness, embodiment, and feelings. Like somebody had looked inside my mind and brought back exactly what I needed. Near the end of the lunch break, I was talking with a friend about the Buddha’s teachings on metaphysics (which questions he refused to answer, much to the irritation of his students). And I said, “The existence or non-existence of god, the exact nature of soul/atman/anatman, whether emptiness has form or is just…” I trailed off, and looked out the window. I would like to say that in this moment of epiphany, I was articulate and wise, but what I actually said was, “Oh. Shit.”
And I went to the cushion, and I sat for 20 minutes, and the chatter had ceased. Nothing. Sometimes that happens for a breath or two, but after a couple of minutes of it, I managed to drum up the thought, “This is kind of weird,” which usually triggers the cascade of thoughts. Still nothing. So I sat in actual silence for about another 10 minutes, and I thought, “Yeah. This would be hard to teach. I can’t even imagine how to explain this.” And then it went silent again.
In the afternoon, we talked about enlightened society… as something to be worked for, not a utopian ideal. Once again, exactly what I needed.
At the end of the day, I mentioned to our teacher that I had had this experience in meditation. “Ah,” he said, “No-thought. You’re not in New York yet.” I tilted my head to one side. He said, “Chogyam Trungpa used to liken that to finding a signpost. You’re going in the right direction, but a lot of people think they are at the destination, so they see this signpost that says, ‘New York: 72’ and they sit down under it.” I nodded. We stood in companionable silence. Before I left for the day, he gave me a hug.
And I was not bereft any more.