The silent meditation retreat: days 3 and 4

Read about day 0 here.

Read about days 1 and 2 here.

Day 3.

I’m very motivated today. following my breath comes much more easily, and I’m noticing so many subtleties around it that I’ve never noticed before.

My inhale doesn’t feel smooth. This surprises me – it’s like a series of gasps, punctuated by small, almost imperceptible shudders in my body. Is this how I normally breathe? This is so weird. At the end of the inhale there are even more gasps, like my body is desperately trying to get the last few drops of air in.

When I exhale, it feels like there are multiple reservoirs in different parts of my torso slowly being emptied.

When I’m lying down, I can easily feel the breath in my stomach. When I exhale, there’s a flattening in my entire torso, a sensation which feels deeply restful. I’ve never noticed it before.

I’m starting to be able to feel it in my belly even while sitting. It’s like a gentle curling-under at the end of the inhale. That’s the best way I can describe it.

There’s edges of emotions, I can’t quite place them, like a strange hard flatness somewhere in my mind-space, or maybe it’s in my body, I don’t know, it’s too subtle. When I feel it, I have the thought “there it is” and I start to cry. What the hell? It passes quickly. Maybe it’s nothing.

I have beginnings of thoughts about people. I can tell who it’s about and I can tell that I feel tight and uncomfortable and averse to it, but the thought itself isn’t there, doesn’t fully manifest.

This is all so weird.

I notice that I’m able to stay with my breath even during the breaks and chore periods, at least somewhat. I wonder if I can follow my breath for an entire day. Let’s try that tomorrow.

Why tomorrow? Let’s start now.

I’m able to stay with it during the afternoon. I’m able to stay with it during breaks. Other thoughts come up, but the breath never recedes into the background. I’m even able to stay with it during Soryu’s dharma talk, simultaneously repeating “in. out. in. out.” to myself while also listening to his words.

In the Dharma talk, Soryu talks about our attachment to desire. We want our bodies to be comfortable and our minds to understand. We need to let go of these wants. We need to let go of our attachment to our “selves” and our attachment to thoughts.

It doesn’t resonate with me. It’s weird and frustrating.

In the evening, I’m excited to tell him everything I’ve discovered about my breath, all the weird little things that have come up that I don’t yet have good words for. I’m excited to tell him that I haven’t lost track of my breath for hours.

I walk into the interview room, and before I open my mouth, he speaks:

We have the opportunity in this retreat to set aside “I want, I don’t want, I understand, I don’t understand.” We have the opportunity in this retreat to mindfully attend to this, exactly as it is, without resistance. And if we do that, then it becomes clear to us, that your path, our path, has never been written down, never described. And the part of the path that you’re walking is the part of the path that’s never been written down. Setting aside want, don’t want, understand, don’t understand, I. What is that? Don’t let that just be some experience that we acquire. It’s alive.

Before I can say anything in response, he bows. I leave the interview room and walk back to my cushion.

What the goddamn fuck.
How do I set aside wanting to understand?
Am I supposed to just completely stop thinking?
How can I do th- fuck.

Why would I event want- fuck.
I was so excited to tell- fuck.
This is so stu- fuck.
But I was doing so- fuck.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
I guess this is how I stop thi- fuck.

Day 4.

In the morning, I listen to the recording of last night’s interview. It doesn’t seem nearly as annoying or frustrating now. Maybe I don’t fully understand it, but so fucking what? Maybe he’s even wrong. So what? What’s the worst that’s going to happen to me if I follow his instructions for a week? Am I afraid that I’m going to become some unthinking zombie? That’s silly – the people here are proof enough that that’s not what happens. And even if it were, do I really have so little confidence in myself that I think a week of this is actually going to harm me? Come on. Have more faith in yourself.

I start following my breath the moment I step out of bed. In. Out. In. Out.

I slept terribly, and I’m drowsy most of the day. I have no idea how to work with drowsiness, and my concentration is far worse. I let myself get drawn into strange daydreams again.

In an effort to re-motivate myself, I switch my technique to see-hear-feel noting. This basically means that every few seconds, I am saying the word “see” or “hear” or “feel” to myself, depending on where my focus is in that moment. “See” refers to outward sight or internal images. “Hear” refers to external sounds or internal talk. “Feel” refers to bodily or emotional sensations. It’s a remarkably accessible technique for many people.

I still struggle with it. Today is difficult and mundane. There is nothing interesting, no breakthroughs.

Although, I did see bear prints during my run this morning. I promptly turned around and went back inside.

My interview tonight is nice. I finally get to tell Soryu about all the things I’ve discovered about my breath, and he is animated in his responses. He teaches me some breathing techniques to relax the shuddering and gasping of my inhales.

I feel my motivation coming back.

Only 3 more days left.

4 thoughts on “The silent meditation retreat: days 3 and 4”

  1. There’s a part of me imagining that Soryu saw your enthusiasm as you came into the interview room all eager to tell him about you breath and was like “she _wants_ to tell me something; what an excellent opportunity to help her let go of desire.”

  2. OMG woman, this is hysterical (and I mean that in the best possible way) to me, especially all the wtfs- you seem to speak my internal language haha. I did my first week long there last April and yes, it is all so so interesting, I mean, we are all so f’n interesting. …and that trickster Soryu does at times stop you in your tracks. Thank you for sharing this.

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