Retreat

It’s my last free day before retreat. Starting tomorrow evening, I’ll be in silence for 7 days.

It’s way harder to do this full-time than it is to just visit. If you’re just visiting, for a week or a month or however long, then it’s easy to not have anything better to do. If you’re on retreat, it’s easy to make the practice the most important thing in the world for the time that you’re on retreat, because you know you’ll be out of it soon enough. Your old self will be waiting on the other end of it, so you’ll be able to take whatever experience you have and turn it into another thing that you possess, another bullet point on your spiritual resume.

Doing this full-time, the only priority system that makes sense is the one you’ve been using all along. Surrendering to this moment is important, sure, but how important? More important than being financially stable? More important than having skills that you can use to survive and make things happen in the world? So this practice winds up on that list. And if it’s not on the top of that list, then at least in my experience, you’re going to have a hard time at a place like this.

I know all that in my head, I can hear it and agree with it, and I can say it, but there’s clearly someplace it hasn’t sunk in yet, because I’m still grabbing onto various side projects and other small distractions.

In the rationality world, they call this akrasia. You know what the right thing to do is, but you keep watching yourself do something else anyway.

But I didn’t drop everything and move here because I thought the monastic retirement package looked appealing. I have a family in Toronto that’s waiting for me. I have a family in San Francisco that’s waiting for me. I have a family in Ohio that’s waiting for me. I have a family all over the world that’s waiting for me to finish this training.

And it’s not lost on me that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction, or that we’re on the edge of a third world war, or that we’re accidentally funding a Manhattan Project to wipe out all life on earth because it’s marginally more profitable to get closer to it.

And yet if I can’t even perceive clearly, how can I do anything about any of this? If I’m constantly twisting and warping every bit of information I receive so it makes me look better and lets me forget about what I don’t want to think about, what use can I be? If I’m always protecting myself, how can I ever be with you?

So this retreat coming up, I intend to break free from delusion, from ignorance, from greed, and from hatred. I intend to get to the point where there’s no choice but to give in. I intend to lose it, to die, to finish, to end. I don’t intend to make it through. No punches pulled. Not any motion done for me. In the morning, get up out of love for all beings. In the evening, lie down out of love for all beings. No moment wasted. Nothing held back.

May this be useful.