Fianl account of the June weekend retreat, 2008:
Last set of pictures from the retreat are below.
Most meditation systems try to focus the mind on an object of concentration, usually the breathing, light or sound (including mantra). Slowing the mind down facilitates mindfulness, the state of self awareness that has a different quality to the state of absorption in what you are doing. You literally ‘remember awareness’ : where Sati = to recall into mind, and Samapjjanya = awareness, or the feeling of consciousness.
However, in the dvedaviatakka sutta the Buddha tells us to stop the mind completely still, free from all thoughts. Far from entering a zombie state, the ‘dial tone from God’, the mind becomes brighter and more alert, polishing itself into a high state of concentrated awareness in a way that is different from concentration on an object.
Who is there that can make muddy water clear? But if allowed to settle it will clarify. Thus it is that without moving you shall know, without looking you shall see, without doing you shall achieve.
Ajahn Terry Magness:
This does not imply, of course, that a man cease to act, but rather that the mind’s diffusiveness be controlled and put to a stop. It is only when the mind is in a state of concentrated dynamic intensity that it is able to penetrate the material veil that obscures psychic reality … with his mind polished to the highest pitch of perfection.
This style of meditation, focussing on the thoughts themselves, slowing them down not by placing the attention on some other cooler object of consciousness, but by directly looking at the outflow of thought from the verbalised, preverbal and then finally just the tiny shaking in samadhi that entices the mind into thinking, is not the usual approach in modern Buddhism, and it takes some practise. For us mental based people, air signs of the Zodiac, it makes more sense to watch the Subject – the place where the ‘I Thought’ arises, where desires are few with thoughts, and where the sense of self establishes itself, in order to understand and let go of it, rather than just focussing on a meditation object.
Other than the style of meditation, we also took a relaxed approach to the schedule, ditching the nobally silent boot camp of sitting and walking that is traditional in favour of alternating silent meditation with social unwinding. Sangha building is a nice function of gatherings that is more difficult when no talking is allowed. Thus at meal times and through the afternoon we were not in noble silence. There is room for boot camp intense meditation retreats, and room for more relaxed and socially enjoyable retreats. In the future there is no reason for not doing both, and people can choose what they prefer or need at the time.
Click images for larger version.