Spirit Rock Retreat 2008, Day 4

9-24-08
11:30 AM

Notes from Lama Tsultrim’s talk

Feeding Your Demons
You let go of your end in a tug of war. “When you let go of your end in a tug of war, there is no more war.”

Demon: anything keeping us from being in the true nature of mind. What’s draining my energy right now? Depression, self-hatred, anger, a relationship issue? (“As tempting as that is, “they” are not the demon. Our reaction to them is the demon.”)

Needs are underneath the wants. Ex: wanting to eat ice cream all the time. Need is to feel safe.

We practiced the meditation. I worked with my demon depression, which it turns out is also fear & loneliness. It was a very profound experience. I look forward to incorporating this & the Prajna Paramita practice into my life.

Notes, Con’t.

Fighting the demons makes them more powerful. This idea of feeding them was developed by an 11th Century woman. [Machig Lapdron] (Though Buddha didn’t feed [the demon] Mara, he didn’t fight him, either.)

4:35 PM
Notes from group interview with Debra [Chamberlin-Taylor]

Discursive thinking may be felt as a tug. Note the tug and return to the present moment. If the tug keeps returning, there are options: feed the demon, look directly at the thought. These sensations (doubt, interruptions) are common right before a breakthrough moment – like how Mara redoubled his efforts right before the Buddha awakened.

Thoughts on the deficient feminine from a fellow yogi: it’s the shadow. It’s the whining, nagging, fussing we see ourselves do & want to stop, and see other women do & want to make them stop. At the same time, men are meeting their own shadows.

From another yogi, on the pre-dawn Prajna Paramita practice (that I skipped due to arthritis and cold): “if every woman on the planet greeted her day like this, I can’t imagine what we can’t heal.”

From another yogi: drawn to the power of the female. She said, “I see what my sister sitting right next to me is going through. Wow!” I like the “sister” reference, whereas until this week, I never liked it. Isn’t that interesting…?

Acronyms from the same yogi:
Divine Sacred Feminine = D.S.F. (Debra reminded us that this is a poetic term, not a technical one.)
deficient feminine = d.f.

Debra: female is the embodiment, male is the transcendent. We need full balance, as represented by Prajna Paramita. Prajna Paramita practice is perennial truth in a feminine form.

6:15 PM
Today has been a day of stillness. I returned to the bookstore largely because I enjoy its ambiance. It’s a pleasant break in a day of hard training. I found a gift for my friend Christine: a quartz crystal mala. It has good feminine energy. She can treat it as jewelry, too, if she wishes. I also found a few things I’d been wanting for myself at ridiculously low prices. The best part: coming & going I met a herd of deer. I had a chat with one of the does on my way out. Her body relaxed and her tail stopped twitching as I assured her, “I’m an herbivore, myself.”

I need to talk to Zen Master Bob about how to incorporate these teachings into my practice.

9:28 PM
We did outdoor Prajna Paramita practice at sunset. I need a warmer shawl. I hadn’t planned to buy one, but I may have to in order to participate fully. Rationalization? I don’t think so. I’d much rather buy more books & jewelry than a shawl! I’ll sleep on it.

I had some meditation periods today that went so smoothly, I couldn’t believe it when time was up. I also had a kensho moment at the end of tonight’s Prajna Paramita practice. When I dissolved the goddess, I dissolved, too. There was nothing left but emptiness, and yet “I” was aware of the emptiness & aware that it contained everything. It lasted a while, even after “I” became aware of “myself” again.

Spirit Rock Retreat 2008, Day 2

9-22-08
1:25 PM

I decided to sleep through the early meditation this morning. Wonderfully luminous!

There was a herd of 4 small deer outside my door this morning. They watched me put my shoes on. Yesterday, I walked past 2 wild turkeys 6′ away.

The teachings on the sacred feminine so far have focused on how to be compassionate & care for others without giving yourself away. We did a partnered meditation called “inquiry” where one person speculates aloud on a suggested subject while the other listens deeply without getting out of herself. I’ve done deep listening, but never with this focus. It’s hard! Hard training.

Out subjects have been (1) ways the deficient feminine manifests in our lives, and (2) ways the sacred feminine manifests.

I have decided not to go running today. One of the managers told me they advise against it on vipassana retreats, but if I must go, go downhill from the residential area. Since I have a group interview with a teacher at 4 today, I’ll check with her. I don’t want to do something counterproductive to my – or another yogi’s – retreat experience.

My new mantra/koan:

Isn’t that interesting…?

3:47 PM
I went to the bookstore looking for gifts. This was just a recon mission: no buying today. On the walk back, I encountered a herd of 5 deer, & 2 wild turkeys. Damn, those are big birds.

I enjoyed the free-form movement practice. Part belly dance, part yoga, part stretching. It almost became nap practice for me at the end when we were all stretched out on the floor. “Connect to the earth like no one needs anything from you for the next few minutes,” said the teacher [Julie Wester]. Wow! What a concept! I thought I had an unending string of responsibilities to countless people.

4:45 PM
Notes from group interview with Anna [Douglas]

On noble silence: “For women, it’s an invitation not to caretake.”

She told me to go running.

“Trust our own knowing. As women, this is something that needs refining.”

With the silence, I had no trouble liking everyone. Now that I’ve talked to some of the women in a group, however, I get to practice not judging!

9:45 PM
Dinner was good. Anna gave a dharma talk on Prajna Paramita, the goddess – but mostly on what the sacred feminine means & can mean to the world. This retreat is helping me build self-esteem & grow more comfortable in my roles that are gender-based.

I enjoy my night job of veggie washer. Very relaxing and satisfying. I wonder what dish those 15 lbs. of parsnips are going to turn up in…

Lights out.