It’s been an interesting three weeks here in Nepal. My lack of communication is due to a number of factors: I was quite ill for around a week with giardia, the power supply in Kathmandu is extremely erratic, and I spent the better portion of this last week in a self-retreat in a nunnery high in the forest above Kathmandu. I didn’t know what quite to expect going into it, but it’s certainly been one of the most insightful periods of the entire trip.
When I got there, I quickly realized just how tired I was from the last six months in India, but not just in a physical sense. In addition to the little microbes in my stomach, I found I also had a case of spiritual overload. The seven weeks with Amma were like being in a pressure cooker, and I soon realized I just needed to rest. So I went about my days doing whatever felt right at that moment: sitting, lying down, taking walks, reading. I didn’t impose any timetable on myself, but I still found several hours a day to practice formal meditation.
After a few days, I began to reflect that I feel no further longing to accumlate more experiences- be they spiritual or secular. I don’t need to see any more place or climb any more mountains, nor do I feel compelled to perfeorm austerities, rituals or techniques in order to bring about a heightened or deepened state of awareness. Most importantly, I came to accept that there will always be dark, unconscious corners of my mind, but that I no longer need to seek them out to prove to myself that I am a “fearless spiritual warrior” (a motivation, ironically enough, which is actually grounded in fear!). I came to accept that where and who I am is enough, and that always looking for the next ceremony or teacher or retreat is essentially no different that the desire to accumulate more possessions. Experiences come and go, no matter their quality.
I felt this to be the natural contiunation of my deepening experience with the sacred feminine. My life in the west, including my relationship with spirituality, is invariably influenced by the hyper-masculine, active, “gimme gimme gimme” attitude that we’ve all adopted that leaves us in a position to never be fully present with what is. I soon realized that this is the conditioning I need to undo! Instead of being concerned with goals, I began to feel supremely at ease with the process. Instead of focusing on the results of a given session, I tried to remember the need to have a result from each and every thing is a very fear based feeling. Listening to the rain and watching a candle in my room became occasions for celebration.
There’s a certain element of this “do what I feel like doing” retreat that struck me as potentially strengthening the ego. But I realized that this constant second guessing of myself is incredibly exhausting, and that I needed to learn to trust that what I felt like doing was indeed the “right” thing to do (that’s another thing that a masculine spirituality would be concerned with- right vs. wrong). Besides, after having been at the practice for a number of years, I’ve seen how selfish behavior creates suffering, and why it’s important to keep the precepts. So “doing what I want” isn’t an invitation to go get drunk and party; I’ve been through that and I realize that it won’t bring me the happiness we all seek. Instead, this past week has show me how to approach sitting, yoga, and mindfullness with the attitude of doing them for their own sake. Whatever they “bring” me, I will accept and embrace.
I’m off to Lumbini tomorrow (the birthplace of the Buddha). Giulia has been sitting for two weeks in an intensive retreat there; I just might join her for the last week if that feels like the right thing to do.