The York Sangha has just held a four day retreat in the beautiful seclusion of the North York Moors. We had a delightful time together, fourteen of us joined by an extra two on Saturday, as we explored poetry, drawing and Indian dance, noticing our attraction towards certain types of creativity and aversion to or rejection of others.
I realised a blank piece of paper and a pencil in order to write a poem is an exciting and magical prospect for me, but the same blank piece of paper and pencil in order to draw is a rather scary proposition!
One unexpected aspect of the retreat for me was the onset of a hefty cold, which quickly turned into a diaphragm-aching cough and a distinct lack of energy! But it was interesting to view this illness with the detachment the retreat afforded, and also to be aware of the urge to be in charge of the food, and also join in every aspect of the retreat as I would usually do. This time I had to really listen to my body and when the energy got too low I had to rest.
And so it was a different kind of retreat, but very enjoyable nonetheless, as well as being challenging, which is something I tend to expect from any retreat.
Here's the first poem I wrote as a reflection of what was taking place for me over the retreat.
I don't want this cold!
This snot-filled, energy-draining cold
that makes me feel as if I am
not yet properly awake,
yet brought out of slumber
at an unusually early hour.
And I really don't want this cough!
This bone-shaking, rattling cough
that rises convulsively and inappropriately
in the middle of meditation.
I don't want these aching knees!
These creaking, painful, tender knees
that make me shuffle through meditation
and squirm and wriggle on my stool.
And I don't want this aching back!
This tense and irritating, aching back
that means I can't hold
the sitting position I think I should.
What is left?
A miserable, withered, shrunken heart
that rejects everything it dislikes
or doesn't want to accept
at this moment.
A heart so reduced in size
it can barely perform its functions
and wants to give up.
The message my friend, is
to accept it all,
welcome it all,
invite it in
to see what it has to tell me.
Welcome the runny eyes and drippy nose,
the aches and pains that tell me
I am still alive.
Welcome them all
and allow the heart to feel its fullness,
to pump magnificently and beautifully,
sharing its vitality and joy of living
with each cell, molecule and particle.
And remember the non-toothache!
© 7 October 2013