Organising a Buddhist meditation retreat at a gorgeous property in Northern NSW should have been the easiest thing to do. Choose a date with the meditation teacher, ring up said property, book accommodation and catering, pay deposit, advertise, book people in, and …………… BINGO, retreat happens. So why did this one cause me so much stress?
I’ve participated in numerous meditation retreats over the years, and had organised one last year, so organising this one shouldn’t have been such a stretch. However, I chose to complicate the whole process by convincing myself a couple of weeks before the retreat that the Buddha was a psychopath.
You see, the theme of the retreat was the 4 Spiritual Emotions: Loving Kindness,
Compassion, Joy with Others, and Equanimity. My problem with the Buddha was that he also advocated that there was no self, only conscious awareness behind the self. The ‘Self’, he said, is just a persona, or mask, that we use to navigate through life. Therefore, if the self is not real, there is nothing to feel those 4 emotions. All a bit esoteric, I know, so consider what a psychopath does with emotions.
Psychopaths are manipulative and have no empathy. In fact, they are actually missing grey matter in the part of the brain needed for empathy. Empathy involves identifying with someone else’s feelings. Therein lay my reasoning: You can’t identify if there is no self to identify with. Therefore, no self = no empathy. Being able to stand away from the self and observe emotions with no empathy could be potentially psychopathic. It made sense at the time.
Three days of silent (that’s right, silent for three days) meditation and listening to 4 wisdom teachings each day soon knocked the idea out of my head. Just sitting in reflection with my own emotions, unable to distract myself with chatter amongst other retreatians, made me genuinely feel that the 4 emotions the Buddha and other religious and spiritual prophets spoke of, were in fact, the basis of our true nature. When there are few other distractions, you can actually feel them in your heart.
Blankman, Andrew Scott, was witness to the weekend’s teachings. Aside from keeping the pot-belly stove in the meditation hall lit for morning and evening meditation (thank you Andrew), he insists that the escape from the city routine was a most welcome breather.
“They warned me that post-retreat I might end up just strolling the beaches for no reason and that seems to be my thing now”.
About his inward journey during silence, Andrew also adds, “I feel confident about meditation not hurting or being so damn awkward anymore.”
Meditation retreats aren’t some sort of weird cult-like experience where you
go and get rid of all your belongings, abandon friends and family, sell your children, shave your head and ordain as a nun in Thailand (not sure about Andrew. I haven’t seen him in a while). A meditation retreat is only meant to be a break from our hectic, over-stimulated minds, and super fast-paced lives. The reason for inward reflection is to help us live our lives more meaningfully back here in the real world, not to walk away from it.
Now I have put my particularly left-of-field meditation retreat question to bed, I can’t help but wonder: Was the Buddha a sexist misogynist? Next retreat maybe.