Solitary Retreat and the Running Mind, part 2
by Fay Octavia Elliott
Where we left off: I heard Pema Chodron say once that the middle is always the hardest part of a retreat regardless of its length. I crossed the middle line this evening and feel very happy. My shamatha practice this morning seemed more stable and despite the new wrinkles, I maintained my stability and completed the day. I decide to fast from eating, reading and writing tomorrow to remove even more distractions from my practice sessions. Tonight I will read the chapters on garuda and look forward to an “outrageous” day 4.
“The meditation technique of the garuda is moving forward with a healthy balance of mindfulness and awareness, with the result that we surpass previous limitations.” (RMM 135) When I planned day 4, I didn’t know the very plan was outrageous just because I would be going beyond my usual limitations. I loved that notion so much that I even decided to walk down a very long steep hill which I had avoided all week. At an altitude of 8,200 feet this was an outrageous idea since my lungs have very limited capacity. It was outrageous but not dangerous which the Sakyong warns against as foolhardiness. With the aid of trekking polls and a strategically placed boulder to sit on halfway back uphill, I made it and was rewarded with an unbelievably awesome view of the Battle Mesa near Grand Junction, Colorado, on the cliff at the base of the hill.
“The power of the dragon is intention….I believe that with pure intention, you can bring almost any activity on your spiritual path. My intention in running is to benefit others. Thus running is a continuation of my spiritual journey.” (RMM 181) In 2007, I left the corporate world to seek a way to make my life more meaningful and to find a way to give back. I found it in the program leading to chaplaincy at Naropa University. Every step I have taken since then has been leading in this direction. To be ordained as a Shambhala Buddhist minister, concurrent with that program required taking all the Shambhala courses through Vajrayana seminary. At the beginning it all seemed very daunting. Like a runner, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and arrived. Obviously I didn’t stop there. A friend asked me if I was afraid of going to Rigden Abhisheka. The answer was an emphatic “no!”, that it was coming home for me. The deeper our lineage has committed to basic goodness and the path of kindness, the more at home I have felt. Sticking to the path fuels my motivation and intention to make my life be one of service and benefit to as many beings as possible.
“The point is that we are optimistic and engaged. In that way, not only is our activity of benefit to others, it is also personally satisfying and leads to contentment and happiness.” (RMM 195) Throughout the whole book, the Sakyong talks about happiness. He emphasizes that happiness comes from our relationships to family and friends. I would add also from our relationship to our spiritual teachers. During my retreat it has been a joy to share the companionship of the Sakyong. He shared so much of himself with me in this book, and I learned many things I didn’t know about him and his life. I felt the strength of his guidance and support all along the way. It feels like our relationship is stronger now than ever.
“…we too can take a solitary and lonely activity and turn it into a dynamic period of developing an intention to help the world.” (RMM 182) May it be so for all you meditators and runners in the world.
Having just completed her degree at Naropa University, Fay Elliott is now heading off to Shambhala Mountain Center to be the first chaplain in residence there.
For more information about Running with the Mind of Meditation, click here.