Recently I had the fantastical joy of 12 days of mostly silent, solitary retreat at home. I called it a Thinking Fast. Which sort of sounds like a quick cognitive contest. Alas, it is not. Rather it is a time to stop thinking altogether. A thinking cleanse. For me that is heaven on earth.
A Buddhist retreat is not a vacation or hideout. It is a break from the 8 worldly concerns; a rest from involvement in the grandiose minutiae of life. Wordsworth hinted at this when he wrote "The world is too much with us; late and soon, all this getting and spending, we lay waste our powers". So following the supreme example of the historical Buddha, we retreat from attraction, aversion, and ignorance; we gaze inward to our hearts and bodies; we witness the funny and complicated ways of the egoic mind. And yes it is literally a re-treat, as we get treated again and again to the sweet mystery of our true nature. If even for only a millisecond at a time. I feel retreat is my home.
If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, then I have 100 words for silence and solitude. Of course, how silly, as who will I tell them to? They are silent words. Words that point to the essence of things. Words that help us remember there is no boundary to the universe or the human heart. Words that dissolve resistance and restore peace. For in solitary silence, we remember our connection to all things.
When I am alone and silent, I do everything just as it is. Eat just eat. Wash just wash. Life becomes totally ordinary and holy all at once. Of course, the mind can still be chattering away like a TV left on in some back room. So I walk in that room, and I listen a bit to the program. Oh it's a rerun. If you start to pay attention, you hear that it's mostly reruns in fact.
On a Thinking Fast, I like a practice called "Don't Snack on Your Mind". It means when my mind starts nibbling away on the reruns, I just turn it off or change the channel. Junk food might taste good but it has no nutrition. Those old conversations from the late '80s, the list of disappointments, getting lost in nostalgia. Oh a Thinking Fast feels so good! Just turn off the TV, put down the junk food. Turn towards the heart, the sensations in the body, inner smile, remember the space between my atoms. Yum.
So anyway, that went pretty well. And I share in the hopes that you might create a little Thinking Fast of your own. We all need some time to just be, and pause, and rest. And come back home to our inner space.
Before my retreat ended, I asked my heart "What are my words for 2014?" And my heart said, SOFT, GENTLE, WARM, KIND. May we all radiate and magnetize a planet that is more soft, gentle, warm, and kind. I made the bunny above one of the mascots for the year. A sweet, silent, cute rabbit to lead the way!
Cheers to you and much love, Thupten