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Open Dharma seems to me like a very particular
kind of bread. At first, I didn’t like the idea of
it at all. Everybody lying around all day, all
loose limbed and luscious looking, well, it is something,
to be sure, but it is not meditation. No, no, no. And so
I fought and fought because I wanted a meditation retreat
and I know what meditation is, I have seen pictures, I have
been on other retreats, I have read books, written long
ago, and so I know. And this is not it.
But just to see, on the advice of Jaya, I decided one day not to fight any more. To put my trust in this untried triumvirate of Ji’s, beaming at me so unnervingly. And I worked the dough of this open dharma bread. I sifted the soft, white, expansive flour of Jaya, reading Rumi poems as though she were writing them in front of us. I tasted the good, earthy salt of Gemma, speaking about her very practical, very specific tussles with the nature of mind. And somewhere in the very back of the kitchen, I smelt the strange, illogical, magical yeast of Ajay fermenting away, all on its own, as he giggles at a metaphor he has just invented about spirituality and mobile phones.
The oven was the beautiful space of the retreat, where all your lists are made redundant beneath a tree that has no interest at all in where you are going next or what adventures you may have already had on a night train up north. Next to a lake or seven, who are serenely unconcerned at the nagging concerns you might have about how this and that relates to your supposed real life, back home. Where you don’t have to please anybody, or make anybody like you. Where you can be silent, the better to hear your heart. Where you can watch the wind pass by.
But still you need some fire, in the baking of a good bread. And this, I think, comes only from the inside. A heat, rising up from the very bottom of your belly that, when you start to feel it, you realise is igniting, just the same, all around you in everybody else: these little gleaming flames, like so many oil lamps, lighting the way home.
It might be possible, I suppose, to fight all the way to the end. To say no, no, no for ten or twenty days or even for a lifetime. But to miss out on this bread? Fresh and hot and steaming so sweetly from the oven, knowing that without you it wouldn’t have risen at all? Well, it might be possible, but it would really be unspeakably foolish. Why go hungry when there is such beautiful food in your hands?
Ajay: “Let the sounds come to you.”
Gemma: “No, no, don’t joke with the mind, really. If you try to trick it then, wham, it will get you like that. Softly, softly you have to come to the mind.”
“I often say that meditation is about letting the mind out of a job that is too big for it. We made it the king, and it isn’t big enough to be the king of our whole being. If we had made the hand the king then the whole business of meditation would be to remind the hand that it is just a hand. It can relax. It can go back to being just a hand.”
Jaya: “And you waited a whole eight days to tell us?”
And my own personal meditation guide would go something like this: You already know full well how to meditate. How to expand and to be. It is so natural. You cannot learn meditation, you can only remember it.
With the help of the accepting and feminine atmosphere
that Jaya, Gemma and Ajay offered in the retreat I was able
to find the courage to ‘enter the fire,’
and then, softly, to fall into the arms of silence.
Open Dharma trusts in and knows the ways of
unlocking the inherent wisdom in people. They rarely
or never mention the word ‘non-duality,’ yet
their approach is fully one of seeing that each thing has
a natural freedom and radiance which is expressed in different
ways through different individuals.
Lying down has been helpful. I like it when Jaya speaks about the life that is bigger than both life and death.
To have people (you guys) who know how to listen, that I feel I can trust and not having to hide my own failures I feel helped me enormously in shedding light on unwanted, fearful knots. To have this deep and honest communication with another makes the things I don’t want to see more exposed and real.
To have genuine guidance and yet the full range of unguided vision to discover my own experience without right and wrong.
To explore silence as well as interaction during open retreats brought a dynamism and inclusiveness of approach that I feel helped me explore different aspects of my being. And also to have the chance to be in full silence.
To sit in a small group and share one’s experiences during the days can be a challenge; but knowing that I’m in safe hands it becomes a nervous joy, full of learning, and the possibility of speaking from a genuine place without extras.
Just to have a group where I can be myself and have encouragement on my own path, without having to fit into any specific category, has been helpful.
I remember the first time I went to an Open Dharma
retreat 3 years ago, I immediately felt at
home—I mean as if I had found a new family,
or something I had always been looking for without
I could not believe how much love was flowing there, it could totally be felt, it was really palpable and beautiful, blissful.
Since then I haven’t managed to go to other teachers. They show so much love and care; they know exactly what each of us need for our inner development. I can’t say enough how much I trust them and love them deeply.
Now I still feel the same, year after year, every time I arrive to a retreat with them, it’s like coming back home again—this “aaaaah, finally!” kind of feeling.
Their talks are true eye-openers or heart-openers, if not both. I always feel it’s exactly what I need to hear that is coming at the right moment, as if it were meant especially for me! But it’s not only in what is said, but in what is felt during the teachings or meditations with them...a deep sense of peace, no need for anything other than just resting in that, and trusting the inner growth to find its way through me.
I remember once during Sarnath Dharma gathering, I was telling Jayaji my “drama” of the moment (“ooooh, i’m soooo....”-fill in the blank with whatever sounds terrible and impossible to overcome-), and she simply smiled at me with her loving eyes and answered “I don’t believe you”!!!! Well, I found I had a total lack of convincing arguments about what I was saying, so I stopped believing it myself!!!
But the best with them is that they’re not conventional,
with a set method we have to respect: they improvise
on the spot according to what’s needed. And
what’s often needed is that they really encourage
us to lie down and rest as a way of letting go of our tensions
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