I thought I would give a little preliminary report from this retreat so far, because I can’t help it, even though I fell and sprained my wrist yesterday and shouldn’t be typing. If Daniel will kindly add me back to DhU, then I’ll follow up more there later and schedule a Skype retreat debrief there for anyone interested in more details about this particular group of teachers and the incredible innovations they have generated with their retreat offerings.
There are many, many things to say beyond what I can type.
It is very rare to be able to access these advanced teachings without a gazillion prostrations and 10 years of morality practice first.
First, my general impression of Mahamudra itself: The sophistication, technical precision, efficiency, heart, and elegance of the Mahamudra map and methods leaves everything else I’ve encountered in the realm of Buddhist practice in the dust, especially for finishing what we call fourth path. I hardly know where to begin. And I don’t think that is just the retreat bliss-high talking here, although I admit I’m as high as a fucking kite on the bliss… .
Not in my most idealized fantasies of this retreat did I imagine anything this good, beautiful, staggeringly profound, direct, and effective. Words fail me, but you know me: I’ll try words on for size anyway.
Today, in just one day, I got past two obstacles, one of which I’ve had since my shift in January: The obstacle was that I had “luminosity” in the immediate sensory world but not evident in my “this side” thoughts, memories, and daydreams. Retreat teacher unraveled this for me by giving me the “Emptiness of Time” practices.
I practiced two “Emptiness of Time” methods: One by Nagarjuna, and the other formulated by the teacher himself; both worked the very first time, but I found Nagarjuna’s landed me more directly in the most profound vastness, even though it is the more complicated of the methods and thought to be “difficult.” Anyway, got rid of that big bad problem in a single sit. Yay!
There was a related problem: We were told to enter the subtle level of the “mind-as-event perspective,” which basically amounts to vipassana in that you follow the object (the body or breath) as it breaks up into vibrations, particles, patches–impermanence. Then we were told to “take the view,” which is the “awareness-itself” perspective, which is the luminous, space-like, intimate, always-already-here “knowing-ness.” We were to hold that changeless view and to see the fluxing bodily field of dancing particles as movement within that lucid unchanging still awareness. Hrmmmm. I couldn’t do this! There was always one or the other in the damned background or foreground.
I asked what to do about this–more emptiness practices? (I already had good emptiness of self, emotions, and thought when I came into the retreat.) The teacher said, “Hold on–no. We need to go to the very subtle level of mind.” Very subtle, is the third level of mind, past coarse and subtle.
So, with Emptiness of Time practice and what came next began Mahamudra proper. And it so happened that this was right where my cutting edge was. I cannot type out what all happened next, but it was, um, a religious experience in the best sense of the word.
Stimuli were introduced at each sense door–eventually involving literally singing to us and chiming bells for sound; we were to listen to every sound in the environment; he had us experience the sensory field–all while we held the luminous awareness precisely by not holding it! In other words, he took us to the Very Subtle level of mind, where we eased off the effort and seeking, and let it find us. He kept saying, “You don’t have to seek it: It wants you.” This worked! The vast awareness stayed still while the sensory flux happened within it, generated by it, as an expression of it. No more foreground/background lack of integration.
Then he kept pointing out and singing, and this broke down the construct-boundaries between the sense doors, which yielded a “mandala” of sensory experience.
This was only one day!
The retreat began Friday evening, so we’ve had four days. Until today, I was basically waiting for all the other retreatants to catch on or up. My concentration was much stronger, apparently, than anyone else’s coming in, but I gave it my all anyway. (Concentration for days on end is hard work!). Beginning yesterday, John started individualizing instruction by giving those who got stuck at a certain place more of the rudimentary stuff. I’m thrilled that I’m finally getting somewhere new, beginning today, although even what I didn’t need attainment-wise was very valuable to go through so I could understand the map, and so this teach could figure out my cutting-edge.
As for my true level, I already have one level of nondual awakening. I am missing only the last, most subtle piece, maybe that fucking gnat Daniel mentioned. And here it is: Even though when I’m looking at or sensing objects, and the awareness flows from both sides, like “mixing oceans,” I’m still processing that level of “nonduality” through a subtle level of subject-object-verb separation. In other words, I’m zeroing in on a particular object or part of the field, which excludes the rest of the field of sensation. The TOTALITY has to be deconstructed–then all that occurs is liberated.
By the way, the teacher is a perfect blend of no-nonsense technical precision, directness, and heart. This morning, he came up to me on the veranda, barefoot, and talked to me alone, saying, "Jenny, you are bringing strong foundational skills into this retreat–how is it so far for you?“ Anyway, I told him, and I asked him if he would continue on as my teacher. He said, "Certainly, but this is a different path, you know.” I said, “Yes, I know; I’m ready for the change.”
Okay, I’m exhausted!
Love to you all–xoxo,