I would like to share a little bit of my practice since I’ve been back from Plum Village and some things from my experience as a young practitioner in the University of Toronto Sangha that I hope can be of some help.
When I returned home from Plum Village about a month ago I was surprised at how quickly I slipped into some of my old mental states. I didn’t really understand why it was so immediate. The first few days back I had a lot of energy and clarity and suddenly I quickly slipped into forgetfulness. My life and environment causes fear, craving, anxiety and dullness to come up consistently and when I practice well it is ok, but I just wouldn’t practice. I knew that I enjoyed doing sitting meditation, but I wouldn’t do it. I knew I wanted to eat well, but I didn’t. I knew I wanted to go to bed at a good time, but I wouldn’t….
There was a subtle but perceivable resistance to every single action involved in taking care of myself. This resistance meant that every act of taking care of myself expended energy and by the end of each day I was very tired. Even if I wasn’t busy or physically active that day. Just getting out of bed in the morning took effort.
Of course I was entirely unaware of this until a week ago when I realized what was happening. I remembered some things I had learned from my time in PV and I remembered that I’d experienced this state before. That’s when I could see that I was having what my roommate had coined in the past a “silent temper-tantrum”. Much like a stubborn child with his arms crossed who doesn’t want to do anything his parents tell him to do, even if he knows it’s good for him. I had this before I came to PV. It entirely disappeared while I was there and as soon as I came back to my life here it resumed. It was a consistent resistance to the present moment and since I needed to be in the present moment to take care of myself I wasn’t doing a good job of it.
I am at a significant point of transition in my life right now that provides many opportunities for the seeds of anxiety, confusion and despair to be watered and after this realization I didn’t really figure anything out. I didn’t suddenly say “AHA! I now know who I am, who I want to be and what I want to do.” I wanted to have that moment but that wanting came from the discomfort of not knowing what the future holds for me. The most profound change in me was the simple non-intellectual recognition of what was going on in me. I could see that I did need to do some small things to alleviate some of the anxiety I was feeling, but not much else could be done. The only choice I have is to do my best to stay in the present moment and do what I need to do to take care of myself. So that is my practice.
I will save my sharing of my experience in the U of T Sangha for another posting, but I did want to mention that my ability to see this would not have been possible without the support of my local Sangha. It really is a raft that allows me to stay afloat in the ocean of suffering in myself and around me, especially living in a large city.
My friends in the Sangha and I are working on offering a day of mindfulness to the U of T community and my hope is that we will be able to offer 3 or 4 each school year. Once we’re all organized I will share about my experience with it.