Here we are...

Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

Retreat Review - Try a Little Tenderness

This past weekend found me back at Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, MA. This was my second retreat there, so I was quickly able to settle in and begin absorbing.

Sitting. Walking. Sitting. Walking. Vegetarian Food. Sitting. Walking. Sleep. Bells. Sitting. Walking. Silence.

That about sums up the 45 hours I was there. Approximately 17 of those hours were doing either sitting or walking meditation. There were about 90 others doing the same thing. Four of them (not that I was counting) had coughs/colds.

There was one consistent message that was the ground of everything taught. Bring Kindness to your practice. Kind to yourself. Kind to your body. Kind to others. Kind in the world.

Whaddaya think? Does that cover it all?

Considering the reality that I do a poor job in all four categories of kindness one does wonder. Still, it pretty much sums up what Jesus taught. It sums up what one wishes to believe about life's meaning. It sums up most ethical questions.

The main speaker was a woman named Michele McDonald. She helps run Vipassana Hawaii. Back in 1978 she was a cook at IMS. As she grew in her practice and understanding she sought to find an accessible way to grow in mindfulness. The RAIN practice grew out of her search. Recognize, Allow/Accept, Investigate, and Non-Attach/Identify. Many mindfulness instructors use this now with their students.

Michele took RAIN, explained it, and then invited us to consider the antagonisms which arise naturally in us when we consider any one of these insights. For instance, we are inclined to avoid and deny rather than recognize a feeling or thought which might be disturbing our inner peace.

These antagonisms are quite powerful; and are often why we go on retreats—we want to focus on the positive stuff. Our first reaction to the antagonism is to fight it. Stop denying. Stop avoiding. Stop attaching, etc..

Michele's advice? Embrace the antagonism. Lean into the curve ball, into the icy road spinout, into the pain, into the discomfort. My therapist told me, "When in doubt, walk toward the cannons".

Here is kindness at its best and most useful.

To put this in a theological perspective. Christ died to save sinners, not saints. You bring your pain to the cross, not your glory.

There is one more key bit of the teaching from Michele (and, her colleague Jesse was reinforcing this in a wonderful way in each of his talks); remember that IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU!

This one I had to stew on for a little bit, but slowly it made sense. Michele and Jesse were saying to us that we tend to take our personal suffering quite personally. The universe seems to be conspiring against me personally. The truth is that we are all mostly caught up in conditioned behaviour, reacting to the conditioned behaviour of others...and reacting to the random conditions of the natural order. It's just not personal.

(Of course there are things which are personal, but even such circumstances, when considered, turn out to be only conditions.)

This I found quite liberating. I'll forget it and act/feel as if every furrowed brow I see is so contorted because of something I have done wrong...but, in a mindful moment I realize that IT IS NOT about me. Brows will furrow or not regardless of my existence.

The "Big O" had it right, down at the Dock of the Bay, and Live in Europe. Try a little Tenderness.





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