Issue 9: Spring
Retreat Reflection

Paradox of the first sitting of the day:
A Week with Reverend Myo Lahey

A report on the March 2010 retreat at Gaia House
Written by Kath Bennett

"What a difference a day makes"

Early in the retreat

Its dark, the rising bell sounds… repeatedly.

The body moves but the mind is not yet fully awake; still a little disorientated with the surroundings and the demands of the new day. Summoned by the practice bell, we move towards the meditation hall. The body ‘dragging its feet’, and the mind finding distractions to delay its arrival. “Must wash my cup… oh, and go to the loo again… no need to get there too early.” Remembering to remember the things to do: shoes straight, no yawning, bow at the right moments, hand position, thumbs in, bow to acknowledge Myo… so much thinking.

And so… to sit.

The body positions itself and ‘just sits’. The thoughts and the aches arise slowly at first. Letting you know this is not normal, that it wants to move. Letting you know that it remembers yesterday.

You focus… sounds of the morning abound. “Why are those rooks so noisy at this time?”… “It’s cold in here”’... “How long to go now?”… “Noisy woodpecker – he must be giving himself a headache”. The heating drones away in the background, the body and mind complain. “Why am I doing this?” … “Maybe a slight adjustment to alleviate things – no one will notice.”

The sit continues.

Eventually the Doan moves to prepare for morning service. “Good, nearly there”… “Porridge will be under way soon.” The heating switches off – droning ceases. “Only a minute to go now”… Ding… “Done it!”

You bow, rise and tidy your mat; the body grateful to be moving once more and the mind wondering which part of the body aches the most.

Later in the retreat

Awake and about before the rising bell. Body and mind seem to know what they’re doing. Refreshed and willing.

Practice bell is heard and you find yourself already on the way to the meditation hall, happy to be heading in that direction, to join the others; thankful for their support. Thoughts from the start of the week have formed into habit – you notice shoes neatly paired, everyone bowing together, showing up completely. A harmonising calm seems to pervade as each of us, somehow, practice in unison.

And so… to sit.

As the body bends, a momentary scream in the mind: “Oh no, not again!” It quickly subsides and the aches and pains that previously would have caught the attention have faded to the periphery. Mind and body accepting the calm.

You focus - sounds of the morning abound. Outside, the world begins to breathe: the rooks’ chatter welcomes the day and the woodpecker strikes up again, familiar but different; now proclaiming his existence on a more distant tree. The heating purrs away in the background, doing what it needs to do.

The sit continues.

The Doan moves to prepare for morning service… “Not now …so soon?”
The heating switches off – only a minute to go – sitting wholeheartedly… Ding! You bow, rise and tidy your mat. Noting the reluctance but accepting the change as Body and Mind, united, rise in stillness and silence.

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