When I began studying Buddhism around eight years ago, a weekend retreat seemed like a big deal. Then I heard about month-long retreats, and thought that must be a vestige of some archaic past. Who can leave their life for a month to go on retreat?
Whatever challenges a practice presents, there is nothing, but nothing, more prominent than patience. Patience will drive you mad. It will set you free. And it will always be the heart and soul of a meditative life.
The truth is: without a genuine willingness to let in the suffering of others, our spiritual practice remains empty.
Father Theophane, a Christian mystic, writes about an incident that happened when he took some time off from his secular duties for spiritual renewal at a remote monastery. Having heard of a monk there who was widely respected for his wisdom, he sought him out.
Mindfulness is like a Russian doll. Just when you think you have gotten to the biggest doll in the set, you discover that that doll too is inside an even bigger doll. In mindfulness practice, we are continually discovering thoughts behind thoughts behind still more thoughts, seemingly ad infinitum. The more evolved our practice, the further back (behind thought and emotion) we can travel, and the more layers of thought and feeling we can see before becoming identified with what’s arising. Ultimately, mindfulness practice increases our capacity to witness what is happ
Remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, the stuffed animal who was loved so deeply by a young boy that he became alive? I've been playing with idea of that as metaphor for being -- only there's no boy. We have to love ourselves into Reality.
It's said, in traditional Buddhism, that over the course of our many lifetimes every being has been our mother. In traditional Asian societies, this was meant to help us see with the eyes of love and compassion.