It’s been two weeks since the 2016 Concentration Retreat, and though I made a lot of notes in my notebook about various things that arose, and lessons learned, it’s taken a while for me to get a clearer picture of what the retreat was about.
I noticed two years ago that the return from the Concentration Retreat was qualitatively different than the post-Vipassana retreat re-entry. Things feel more matter-of-fact and ordinary, but very precise. I have less interest in chasing the ups and downs — not needing to feel entertained or distracted or overly worried — and more interest in being present and feeling the pleasant sensation that comes from effortlessly staying in the present.
Often a Dharma talk or book will say something about meditation and I find that that very something will manifest in my practice soon thereafter. I’ve even thought there is some aspect to practice that involves suggestion, in the sense of persuasion, and that our minds produce the expected state or result because we are leaning into it unconsciously. I don’t know if this is the case, or if it’s better understood as being the mind’s malleability – that doors are opened and we are inclining the mind to step through them and it does! In this case, the Leigh Brasington book on the Jhanas, Right Concentration, suggested that the power in remaining in deep states of concentration is that it teaches the nervous system how to access and remain in states of not only concentration, but bliss, serenity and equanimity. I didn’t spend inordinate amounts of time in absorption states on this retreat, but I was able to get into these states and stabilize them– spending 10 minutes in some cases to a full period in another case– in what I took to be the first, second and third Jhanas. I think soaking in those states even that much has proven to be beneficial in just the ways Leigh spoke about. The qualities of a highly concentrated, happy, and calm mind were certainly present at the retreat — especially during walking meditation following the absorption-state sits. I think these qualities are still accessible as baseline mental states even two weeks after the sit.
My two sits at Mission Dharma last night were in the realm of access concentration and it’s re-invigorated my sense of calm and clarity to a great degree.
It’s so interesting to watch the path unfold.
May all beings know the great natural peace of a calm and collected mind. May all beings be free. Thanks for reading.