I really struggle when I do one of my intense spiritual retreats, such as Zen sesshins and, in the past, Plains Indians’ vision quests or even sweat lodges. While I realize such are not everyone’s shot of tequila, despite the struggles the personal and spiritual growth benefits far outweigh the “torture” involved. I say the latter somewhat with tongue in cheek–but they are definitely gruelling and difficult challenges for me.
In a recent Zen teisho (lecture) by Lawson Satcher-rosi of Windhorse Zen Center, of which I am a participating member now, one of the participants said she can’t wait to be able to come back to Windhorse and do our sesshins there! Doing the long hours of sitting in the Zendo (meditation hall) there at Windhorse rather than via Zoom from her home.
To bring all non-Zen’s up on the lingo, sesshins are intensive spiritual meditation retreats in which participants are doing sitting meditation eight of more hours per day. These are times of intense practice–and can be very productive. I talk about them and their benefits in my latest Guru book about my last vision quest. Unlike vision quests, there is not the huge physical challenges, e.g. sitting out in the desert or wilderness alone for four days without food and only water. That is unless you include going to an all vegan diet an equivalent.🙂
This lady was an oldster like me. As I listened to her talk, I again was hit by the question, “Why can’t I be like that?” She was like a dog after a bone; where I cringe, more like a dog that hates baths is having to take one, or cuddle up with the neighbor’s cat. Ewew.
My focus this upcoming five-day sesshin later this month is going to be on this question. Why do these things have to be so hard for me? Why is it such a struggle for me? And, more important, how can I use this struggle to help me go deeper into my spiritual path? Use it as part of my path? Haven’t figured this out yet, but will sit with it in during my meditations. It is my own personal Zen koan.
This is a much more complicated question or quest than it might first appear. It is not only a spiritual growth question, but also, a personal growth question. It is my dragon, Chaos, and the resistance she throws up and guards, blocking my path into her dark cave that holds my childhood treasures (a.k.a. issues) that I haven’t yet worked through. This is the reason in Guru I talked about spiritual fitness, a Darwinian equivalent, as composed of two components, the spiritual, inner-peace component, and the personal growth component. You have to do both if you really seek to be as “spiritually fit” as you can. I will write about this personal growth component in later posts. It’s huge.