Monday, December 22, 2008

Ideas Welcome

Two details regarding the Spirit Rock retreat last week that I haven’t figured out at all:

First, I experienced a lot of anticipation leading up to the retreat. I probably talked too much about it with colleagues and friends, but they were patient and indulgent with my unfocused animation. As a yoga teacher persuaded me a long time ago, it’s often best to set aside expectations before embarking on a new sort of experience. But I didn’t manage that overly well this time.

To get to Spirit Rock for the start of the retreat on Wednesday, December 10, I had to catch a flight from DEN to SFO. Nothing terribly unusual about that. I get to the airport in the morning, check through security, find the gate, login, and field last-minute office work by email. The gate attendant calls the boarding sequence. I board, find my seat, and settle in.

And sitting there on the airplane, my mind shifts a bit, and I see everything from an outsider’s perspective – to borrow Oliver Sack’s phrase, like an anthropologist from Mars.

No, wait. That’s too cold. More like the first-time-appreciation of Miranda’s “…brave, new world…” phrasing, before Huxley turned it dark and naïve.

The people walking down the center aisle of the plane are a varied lot, each remarkable, each strange, each new. That they are embodiments of consciousness is remarkable, strange, and new. That I can see them is remarkable, strange, and new.

After a time, the sense subsides, leaving new tracings in my mind.

How? Why? Exactly what?

Couldn’t tell you.

Second, as I mentioned in a previous post, three days into the retreat, I woke, showered, walked to the meditation hall and sat the pre-dawn meditation. When the bell rang gently, I got up, left the hall, put on my shoes, and began walking down the hill to the dining hall.

As I walked on a little dirt path down the hill, my sense of self turned suddenly transparent, and I saw from the perspective of something other than Sean. Not that there wasn’t a Sean – he was there, but he wasn’t the perspective I was seeing from. He was the perspective that something was seeing through. That perspective was filled with quiet, abiding joy – joy at the cold air, joy at the diminishing cramp in Sean’s neck, joy at the emptiness before eating, joy at the peace of the retreat, joy at Sean’s sore right knee, joy at the slanting sun, joy at the cloud of exhaled air.
The sense sustained itself for a time, then subsided.

It’s hard to find the right words for the completely natural sense of seeing through the self of that experience.

* * *

Ideas or references to others’ ideas about such experiences are welcome.