Day 8 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ If we could reduce the complex noise that the ego makes to one statement, it might be “I am special.” Both in the positive and the negative sense. I am especially good, worthy, deserving, superior, etc.; or I am especially unworthy, lacking, inferior, undeserving, etc. I am more real or legitimate than you. I am less real or legitimate than you. And all the energy we expend to chase and to reinforce the illusion of a separate self on either half of that coin. All that we do to guard against anything which might work against our self-image, or reveal the true poverty of that sense of self. To be free of this special curse, that I think is the path of liberation.

⦿ Equanimity, I believe, is also a key facet of that practice of discovering the “completeness within yourself” and other-selves:

The mind contains all things. Therefore, you must discover this completeness within yourself.   The second mental discipline is acceptance of the completeness within your consciousness. It is not for a being of polarity in the physical consciousness to pick and choose among attributes, thus building the roles that cause blockages and confusions in the already-distorted mind complex. Each acceptance smoothes part of the many distortions that the faculty you call judgment engenders.   The third discipline of the mind is a repetition of the first but with the gaze outward towards the fellow entities that it meets. In each entity there exists completeness. Thus, the ability to understand each balance is necessary. When you view patience, you are responsible for mirroring in your mental understanding, patience/impatience.


Knowing that all phenomenon is impermanent, and thus not becoming attached, the self can witness any one quality arising without making an identity of it, knowing that it has its opposite that will or at least can arise and fall as well.

⦿ The indigo center (the third eye in the chakra system) remained partially opened this morning. During the past two days, each time an intensive wave of pressure and opening in the third eye got underway, I received a strong visual image of a single, off-white, milky drop being secreted from… something, I’m not sure. (In retrospect, I presume that the image had something to do with the pineal gland long associated with the third eye.)

As I concluded my morning sit in the pagoda, I turned on the dim light provided in the ceiling, stood up, and a small silver reflection from the carpeted floor caught my eye. I crouched down… it couldn’t be, I thought to myself.

With some effort, I got the nearly weightless source of the reflection onto my finger tip. It looked identical to the “silver fleck.” It was not so geometrical (not all flecks were), it was in the shape of a teardrop… reminiscent of the vision of the teardrop I experienced very vividly. I’m in awe. One appeared once before for Austin and me. This is the first of my own. I would later bring the teardrop fleck home from California.

⦿ I’ve had the most stability and clarity in focus that I’ve ever experienced, but I haven’t yet fully stabilized the attention into 100% unwavering and sustained single-pointedness. I believe that this is the precursor to absorption and dhyana (not mentioned in this course but essential to the self-realization in Vedanta and Buddhism). That is my work and goal.


⦿ Crashing with fatigue by lunch. Last night was intense, and someone in my dorm had opened/closed their door loudly at 3:30am—those barbarians—and I have been up since. Still energized from the indigo opening, though, I took an hour nap and woke feeling like I had partied hard the night before.

⦿ Sexuality has been mostly muted during this experience. The past two days it’s made some appearance. Not suppressing, per se, but not indulging in order to honor the precept, and to make that energy available for meditation and healing work.

⦿ The thinking mind really is something of an idiot in its constant chatter and things it says.

⦿ The fellows here seemed to be slowing down around Day 6 or so, but as of Day 8, everyone seems to be moving at a crawl. There couldn’t be a more heavenly environment for it either. Sunny blue skies, dry air, mid-70s, birds and squirrels, signs of spring abounding. These men… eight days with them and I don’t know their names, their stories, their accents, whether they even speak English… yet we have existed together in shared purpose in such resplendent peace & harmony.

⦿ The hard negative catalyst in my recent past is less about the facts and substance of the positions and more about my relationship with myself in terms of how such things impact me.

⦿ Mindfully drinking my evening tea and slowly consuming my evening orange and banana, I marveled that this all is happening. One day, old and grey, I will wonder how this ever was, as the ghost of these 60 men walk slowly along the meditative pathway where so many truth-seekers and salvation-goers walked before, where the physical, earth-bound pathways tread with the soles of their feet were really the circuits of their consciousness.

⦿ As the intensity of the opened gateway faded, I slipped into a mode of feeling insufficient and unworthy of the future work ahead. I could feel the misery creeping back in. But like not adding new logs to a fire, I stopped feeding it. I just observed. I could feel the tightening rope uncoil.

Day 9 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ 6am. It’s dark here, but the sun shines for Trish at home. Marital catalyst has come up little the past week thanks to all the intensive work we’ve done to clear the baggage, but there is still yet road to travel both for Trish and me; on her end for reasons she can speak to, but on my end with the energies of frustration, condescension, and impatience.

⦿ The “ego” just wants to feed and be kept alive. It doesn’t care what the situation is. I must apply these principles of equanimity and awareness while being extremely vigilant in my mindfulness in order to stop this wheel and stop generating new “sankharas.” This lets the old stock burn up, like a fasting for the soul.

⦿ Having returned to a more normal S.O.P. since yesterday’s nap and the end of the opened gateway/higher awareness, I see the contrast better between the silence and my everyday personality. In the elevated state, above the water, the currents (mind-habits) are still present, but I am not so pulled and pushed by them. In the non-elevated state, I more immersed in the water and subsumed in the currents. The intellect can still reflect on the currents, of course, but experientially I am whisked away.

⦿ Spent some time in meditation thinking about Trisha Bean. Her smile, humor, the way she cares about me. The heart was aglow.

⦿ I need to treat intense pain and intense pleasure equally. Perhaps I will have different responses to each, yes, but any response should be equal in avoiding clinging, craving, aversion, and attachment. The reaction to ever-changing, ultimately impersonal forces is bondage. This is the path of freedom.

⦿ In pagoda meditation, I held firmly without strain to single point, but invariably the tension/constriction elsewhere in the body/mind made me as tight as a wound rope. But, to place my attention on the tension is to lose focus, forget, be pulled into thought on an unstable platform. I don’t fully understand how to form an holistic, stabilized attention when blocked energies steal and fragment the energy.

⦿ Thought-less awareness. This is what I am tasting. Quite actually: awareness without thought. Not by my hands does the door open. It opens through a single-pointed focus that surrenders craving, attachment, and aversion. To be conscious, aware, and accepting all things without thought. To release the need to control. This is surrender.

⦿ I taste it, this thought-less awareness, but the thinking monkey mind, even when relatively docile, is always in motion trying to comment, reflect, direct, and “understand.” It can do none of those things with silence so it must do the one thing that it least wants to do: stop. Otherwise known as surrender.

But how to surrender? In addition to all the determination-harnessing techniques of will, I must lean into the silence. I must ask the silence to teach me and trust that it is working upon me, even though not communicating discernibly. And to be its partner, I myself must be still and silent.

⦿ Maybe one day I will thank the antagonists for providing a cargo ship of catalyst sufficient to bring misery to new heights, pushing again and again to accept the unacceptable, love the unlovable, surrender to the is-ness of a cruelty I do not understand.

⦿ Final evening of Noble Silence. Full sun again as it slants downward upon the hills. Everyone seems particularly still as they take in the space (except for the barbarians opening/closing the doors in our dorm). I wonder if the guys are eager to return home? I wonder if some will miss this experience?

⦿ I skipped my evening tea and fruit in order to fast and purge some negativity I hold, so I walked the hard earth and gravel mix pathways in barefeet. It followed another round of near single-pointedness again; very intense concentration, but never in a fully settled, at-ease body. I felt once again my brokenness. Surrounded by earthly heaven, I can’t feel and can’t connect. I feel no joy.

⦿ AT the 7pm group sit, I used a technique I’ve used previously in this course. I started actively listening to the silence. Literally, I shifted my attention to my ears to listen to the silence. The listening stabilized and intensified. The attention remained steady. The mind existed without thought. And I did not rubber-band back into my usual mental loops (or mental mayhem, I should say).

⦿ The silence in the room was not ordinary, not what one would hear by oneself in an empty room. It was supported and sustained by the hum in consciousness of 120 souls. It felt alive.It was a very tangible experience! Like a placid, perfectly still lake until a ripple spreads outward from the landing of a dragonfly (a stomach grumbles), or a pebble is dropped (a throat clears), or a stone is thrown (a sneeze). I became so hyper-aware and present that I could register and echo-locate each tiny disruption to (or enhancement of) the silence.

The thinking mind would intrude now and again, especially when becoming self-conscious of not thinking, but seldom overriding the listening completely. This for the better part of an hour. Minute after minute “I” stayed still in this alert state, nothing “to do” in the conventional sense, no stimulus for the thinking mind, little to nothing to chew on—it was patience embodied.

⦿ Once again, somewhere centered in the brain behind the eyes, an intense but not disruptive pressure built. But there was no sense of the gateway (3rd eye) being opened as there had been the other day. I vaguely recall receiving an image similar to the one of the white milky secretion, but this time it was as if it had been exhausted for the time being with nothing further to give.

This listening to the silence was still one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. When the break came, I walked barefoot under the sun with a mind so spacious and subdued. I felt rather empty of content, and I eased away from the suffering that had been with me earlier this day.

What could I do with more days?

Day 10 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ I just realized that, in silence, no cliques formed—indeed, no groups of any kind. Each meal and each break saw a random shuffle of individuals in any one place.

⦿ At the 5am meditation in the pagoda, I sat upright on my kneeling bench. The back wanted to give up real soon, but I invoked “strong determination.” Not force, but unceasing vigilance in holding the spine upright. To look away, even for a moment, the spine imperceptibly slouches in pain.

I’ve seen this pattern innumerable times as I’ve tried to correct my posture while at the computer (where I have spent a good portion of my adult life). As soon as my attention leaves the spine, it slowly slouches until the next time I became aware that I’m bent.

Thanks to meditation, I am realizing that this isn’t purely musculature-related or physiological. The quickness with which the spine wants to release the upright form is connected to, if not a manifestation of, the desire for sleep/unconsciousness/forgetting, and not carrying the responsibility that has weighed heavy upon my journey.

⦿ Holding upright, constriction and pain arose. Correspondingly, a desire, if it can be so called, arose from the spine to give the effort up. It made my breath shallow and concentration a challenge. Yet, second after second, I held, and slowly, a breakthrough emerged: the spine held the form with less resistance, and I partially entered thought-less awareness again.

⦿ In that space of “no-mind,” I momentarily saw how self-imposed misery is. Though the thinking creates a pageantry of many voices and scenes within the mind—as if the self is remembering, anticipating, and actually living in an external world in the projected scenes—there is only ever one voice in here: my own. Remove that and what is there to cause misery? 

 ⦿ Breakfast, final silent meal. Closed eyes at the table and listened to the uncoordinated symphony of metal silverware clanking, feet shuffling, etc. What beautiful men. It encourages my spirit to see men seeking peace and healing. Incalculable pain and destruction on individual and collective levels has been rendered by the masculine principle that has gone out of balance with, and sought subjugation of, the feminine principle.

Noble Silence ends…

⦿ On Day 8’s nightly dhamma talk, Goenka said that we had one more day to do serious work (Day 9), because after the 8–9am group sit on Day 10, noble silence would end and noble chatter would begin. And once the talking starts, one cannot do serious work any longer. So on Day 9, Goenka’s recording exhorted us to work diligently, patiently, persistently….

That turned out to be accurate. Talking began at 9 am and by the next time I meditated, I could not resume the same work I had been doing previously. The 9.25 days of winding down the toy monkey smacking the cymbals together so that it was calm and quiet, was reversed; it resumed clashing those cymbals. I could still find focus and quiet, but short durations only, not the long spells of skating on a sheet of silence.

⦿ At 9am, the assistant teacher did not give his usual housekeeping notice of a break followed by where we could continue our meditation. Instead, oddly, the assistant teachers just walked out of the Dhamma Hall. This signaled the end to noble silence somehow?

The men gathered outside the hall and… wow… like Dorothy stepping out of her black & white world into a realm of vibrant color, all those formerly expression-less faces became alive and animated with expression in the eyes. And voices. And accents! And intelligence, sincerity, wit, humor, curiosity, story. It was all rather amazing, actually, but it overtook all that inner calm I had cultivated. My social issues arose to the fore as I felt… outside, different, lame.

⦿ It just so happened that N., the same fellow who was to pick me up from the airport when I first landed in Fresno (but didn’t due to my eight-hour flight delay), had been seated next to me the entire 10 days. Ha. I learned that early on, and he too apparently knew that, but due to Noble Silence I could not address him in acknowledgement of who he was and in gratitude for what would have been the ride. So we enjoyed a good chat now that we could talk.

When our conversation ended, I tried to stand with a group for a moment but after that quietude, navigating personal challenges was a bit much. I felt like an outsider, a not uncommon experience in my life, so I quietly returned to my room to meditate.

⦿ I arrived to lunch early to sit at one of the outside picnic tables in a strategy of letting someone choose to sit with me instead of vice versa. A couple of other tables formed, intensifying my sense of being on the outside, until a group of guys came up and asked to sit next to me. It was great. We enjoyed thoughtful and sincere conversation on a range of topics. I was asked the ever-challenging question of what I do for a living, and was met with genuine curiosity, if not total understanding. And the topic of Gandhi entered the conversation with one of the three, a fellow of Indian descent, I believe, which would lead to us re-connecting the next day and exchanging some email after the event, but that’s a personal story for me.

⦿ As much as the socializing scattered the quietude to the winds, it was a very ebullient atmosphere, similar to L/L’s events. And I loved hearing so many different stories. I was surprised to learn how many of the students were on their 3rd, 4th, or more(!) repeat of this exact course. I met three or four men whose female partners were on the women’s side as well.

⦿ I retrieved the phone but kept myself from looking. It was really weird having it again. It is funny how quickly we can adapt to our new environs such that what was decades native to us is suddenly weird to reintroduce.

Day 11 & Onward

Day 12, actually, if my flight had landed on time for the check-in day.

⦿ This day featured a final dhamma talk at 4:45am from Mr. Goenka, followed by breakfast, socialization, and cleaning up. It was a buoyant atmosphere, but the descent had begun…

⦿ N. gave me an hour ride to the Fresno airport with a French mathematician. We enjoyed conversation on the way. After being dropped off, I headed to the fabled Yosemite National Park for a couple days in a rented car. Having planned this months in advance, I thought I could spend a couple of days in solitude at Yosemite as a place to integrate my recent experience and buffer before the return to busyness and a world of noise. It was mostly a bust. I fulfilled none of my three main activities—meditation, journaling, or hiking—due to various reasons, one of which was that the lodging was anything but quiet and solitary. There were whole school field trips there. lol. I wish I could have been in the backcountry.

And it felt very empty being in a new national park without Trish. We have explored so much of this country together.

A few pictures I took, including a blanket of morning snow over Half Dome.

⦿ Returning home was a challenge. Not the home part, but the deluge of responsibilities and commitments, and the stimulation from the roar of 10,000 things. I knew that tender inner place of focus, quiet, and equanimity would be somewhat lost as my attention became swept up. This was sorrowful. For the first time in my life, I had seen and walked a few steps on the path toward true wholeness and peace through the touch of samadhi that leads to what is already and always present… by way of dissolution of the misery-making individual self.

I felt thrown back into the river with its unrelenting force of momentum. There is little ability to spend time on its banks. But that, too, is a misperception, as there is no moment in which the Creator is not fully available.

⦿ Three months later, I have meditated diligently daily, and longer than I had before the retreat. 85 consecutive days of the past three months have been spent alcohol-free. Yet, I have not yet been able to cultivate that stability of attention and clarity of experience that I tasted at the retreat. But, I feel changed. And I sense new possibility in me, one outgrowth of which is this journal.

And the great work continues…