Retreats are expected to be tranquil, contemplative experiences, and, to a great extent, this is true. Peter has been on nearly 100 retreats of one week or more since 1982, and some of them were bound to be challenging. This retreat was one of them. The intention was to use a two weeks self-retreat to practice cultivating samadhi using kasina practice, explanations of which are found in the extensive Visuddhimagga commentary, compiled centuries after the time of the Buddha.
The first week involved this practice, using an l.e.d. lighted 8 1/2 inch globe, placed lower than eye level about 6 feet away. The technique involves gazing at the object until a visual “overlay” becomes evident, at which time the eyes are closed and an attempt is made to maintain the image.
This practice was interrupted by significant problems regarding the installing of a new kitchen in Peter’s home (the meditation cottage is in the back yard of his home). After a week of solid cultivation of concentration difficulties arose with the contracted building company, whose management seems to be inconsiderate and greedy. During the talk, Peter described how his mindfulness practice, supported by cultivating calmness and serenity for a week, allowed him to transition into a “work retreat” mindset for the remaining week of the practice. He described a “sea anchor”, a device sailing ships used in storms to stay oriented into the wind and waves of the storm, with breath awareness as the anchor as the storm of emotions passed through. He also talked about how significantly cultivated meditation practice can produce very creative problem solving solutions as a benefit during difficult times, but an obstacle to deeply examining the impermanent and non-self aspects of life, the goal of serious meditation practice.
This was followed by discussion focused on how mindfulness practice can be applied to significant challenges in one’s life beneficially.
Next week’s talk will resume discussion of the discourse on mindfulness of breathing, the Anapanasati Sutta, with particular focus on viriya (vee-rih-yah), the energy awakening factor.