Processing a Journey of Meditative Inquiry

September 25, 2013

This is a very personal entry. I know not everyone will “get” it. As alluded to in the title, this is my form of processing a retreat at Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry.

You can read about the Center and founder, Toni Packer, here: http://springwatercenter.org/ It is helpful to read a little here to understand the origins of Springwater and who Toni was.

Springwater Center is nestled in the rolling hills of the Genesee Valley in New York state. It is located on 200 acres of beautiful land that acts like a buffer not only from the active, busy world of our life, but from the noise…..even internal noise. The retreat is a silent one. The majority of the day is spent in silence and focused on awareness…being present. There is often a short “talk” in the morning and an hour group meeting where talking is permitted. The rest of the day is silent. In the spirit of being aware and present in the moment, there is no writing, reading, listening to music, computing, drawing or painting except in the privacy of your own room. Even that possibility to gently challenged. “What would it be like for you if you chose not to do those things?”

springwater building

There is a short work time in the morning to prepare food for the day, help with basic housekeeping jobs, but that’s it. Then there is the silence. There are “sitting” times, meditation, if you want to participate. There is no “teaching” of how to sit or meditate.

This was my second visit to Springwater. On my first visit I felt a little lost, struggled a little to figure out what the place was about.

This visit was profoundly different.  And here is where this post may become murky for others. This is a reflection of MY experience. Something that happened to me, inside of me, through me, with me.

During one of the talks, Richard Witteman  (http://springwatercenter.org/teachers/witteman/) said two things that literally sprang into my brain and attached themselves there. The first was a quote by Toni: “The less you know, the more fresh things become.” Ahhhhhh!!!

The second item affected me in a very profound way, and I know out of context it will sound unusual, maybe upsetting, or even confusing……but for me it was as if a door opened. I became so full of the words I don’t know if this was a quote from Toni, or from Richard, or from someone else. And it doesn’t matter. It was:

“Not knowing is okay.”

Nothing about “what” we don’t know, but that NOT knowing is okay. It’s ok.

“Knowing” is something that is so important for so many of us. Knowing tomorrow will come. Knowing the alarm will go off so we can get up in the morning. Knowing we have our trip planned, reservations made. Knowing the doctor said we are OK. Knowing our parents loved us. Knowing we have money or a car that works. Knowing we have friends. Knowing we are liked or respected by others. Knowing we can have fun. Knowing what’s coming next. Knowing we experience pain. Knowing we experience joy. Knowing provides comfort, certainty. Knowing takes away the “what ifs”. Knowing. Knowing, knowing……knowing……

But now, NOT KNOWING IS OKAY. I felt a tether break away. I felt euphoric. I floated off my chair. Fear, anxiety, control, worry, anticipation, doubt, confusion….it all melted.

I know that sounds crazy, but I am going to let that story rest now.

The next experience came forth as a result of different thoughts, ideas, observations coming together.

Each day as I sat for meditation I looked out of four tall windows. Usually I had my eyes closed and the view was irrelevant. But when my eyes were open I was aware of the view. The grass, the trees, the clouds, the deer, the wind. I noticed how the windows framed my view. The windows highlighted beautiful aspects of the outdoors. But the windows, and the walls that held them, also obstructed the whole view.  There were parts of the scene I was not aware of. I became mindful that when the windows were open I could sense more of the outdoors…I could hear the bird song more clearly. I could smell the freshness of the air. I could feel the coolness of the air or the light touch of the wind.

The sunlight would fall across the floor creating shadows…shadows of real things that no longer held their real shapes or image. The images were blurred or stretched. The image created hinted at what was there, but it was softer, less defined.

At night the windows turned dark. The beautiful lights hanging from the ceiling glowed softly. They were reflected in the window. But the reflection was distorted. For every one actual light, there were three reflected in the window.

I got to thinking….inside anywhere, looking out through any window I experience a sense of comfort and security. I know that here inside I am sheltered from the weather. I know what the things around me are for: a couch for sitting on, a stove to cook on, a bed were I can sleep. I know what is in the next room. I know where things are. I know.

I can look out the window and “see”. But the view is incomplete. The view is chopped up. Parts of the outside are hidden from view. The sensation of the aliveness of the outside is filtered through the window, the screen. Sometimes something is reflected, but even the reflection is a distortion.

For me this was a moment of awareness, of being present. I knew that until I opened the (metaphoric) door next to the window (in my life), and stepped OUT (into reality?) I could never experience life fully. I would always be living a life looking out and not a life EXPERIENCING fully. And in stepping out of the door I had to trust that it is okay to not know what is around the bend in the path, over the hill, across the stream, up in the sky, under the water. It was and had to be OK not to know. Because, in the false comfort of believing we “know”, we “believe” we have control. And we don’t really. We have no  more control over the events of our day, our emotional responses to others, or other people reactions to us, than we do to controlling the weather. We may think we do, but we don’t. That is scary. And freeing.

Finally, Richard also read something attributed to Buddha: “Seeking but not finding the house builder, I traveled through the round of countless births. Oh, painful is birth ever and again! House builder you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again. Your rafters have been broken down; your ridge-pole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nibbana and reached the end of every kind of craving.” (Dh. 153-54.)

I felt as if my (limited!) “understanding” and being able to open the door and walk out was my “house” being broken down…the rafters falling. Oh, I know this only the beginning of some sort of journey and I will most likely get lost along the way. Hopefully though I will be okay with the not knowing what comes next.

Thank you for reading this experience of mine. I’d love to hear from you.

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8 Responses to “Processing a Journey of Meditative Inquiry”

  1. bert0001 Says:

    (sorry – I saw a typo in the title – you forgot the letter N in iNquiry – only want to help – next trash this comment)

  2. bert0001 Says:

    I became friends with the unknowing a couple of years ago. We cannot know what is around the corner, and most things are further than that.
    The unknowing also give way to Silence, and different ways of seeing things, as you already noticed yourself.
    Great and intimate post!

  3. Monika Aliosius Says:

    I think that you beautifully described just how enlightening your experience was, which, if you were willing to share with more people, it could potentially have a great impact on their lives. While I think I understand what you described, I can’t always put it into practice. I have more work to do before I can. Perhaps most people wouldn’t be able to internalize this experience right away, but it’s a very eye opening introduction to a new way of living. Not just surviving, but LIVING. I am wondering if perhaps you might wish to share this experience with groups, such as those which I attend. Perhaps not everyone can attend this retreat; maybe many folks have trepidation about what it’s about, or can’t afford to go. If they were able to read about your enlightening experience, what you had written, perhaps they would understand themselves better… The idea of letting go of control, constantly questioning “why”… I think what you had written is a gem. I personally greatly appreciated reading about your experience. Thank you, Kathy.

    • Kathryn Says:

      My blog is a way that I try to share these pieces of myself. I am just gaining confidence enough to share more. I put the link on my FB page, which was a big step for me because FB opens me up to people I know, while the blog is in some ways anonymous.I do allow people to repost and otherwise share my blog posts.
      Speaking to a group might be insightful to some, but for me it has been a long road to get to the place described in this post. Part of the experience was because I was out of my familiar element and in an environment that helped facilitate the events that led to the experience. As always, happy to help however I can…..I’m not trained, just a person along the path everyone travels.

  4. oxherder Says:

    This is wonderful! Thank you.


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