I made it through the Monastic Academy’s yearly two-week retreat. Lots of small insights, lots of progress, but no big insight. The basic issue—my reinterpreting of everything to support this self-centered perspective—remains.

After the official retreat ended, I asked to do a solo retreat in a small cabin we have on the property. When asked for a time frame, I offered seven days. In fact, I lasted about two.

That first day was magnificent: I woke up at 3:30 AM, sat in 55-minute increments with 5-minute breaks all day (except for breakfast, lunch, and an exercise period), then went to bed at 9:30 PM. I’d planned on keeping that pace for the rest of the week, but it just didn’t happen. I woke up at 6:30 the next morning. I had immense difficulty focusing. Just four hours later, I called it and went back to the main building. I’m not sure why. I was overcome by doubt, things weren’t going the way I wanted them to, and I hadn’t committed strongly enough to stay no matter what.

Of course we want to get to the point where things stop going the way that we want them to—that’s the whole point. So funny, that we so often give up right when what we came for starts happening.

It was a great retreat nonetheless—both the two weeks and the victory lap. I sat all through the night once, and still had energy to keep going the next day. I felt a lot of peace and exhiliration. And practice finally started to get boring, ordinary, simple. I wasn’t chasing after some special thing anymore, just shoveling the next pile of garbage, shovelful by shovelful.

I also had the best birthday I can remember: it was a totally unremarkable day somewhere in the middle of the retreat. No one gave any indication that they knew, and I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything aside from the usual schedule. It was fantastic. We even had a guest have a birthday later on, and we gave a cute, quiet celebration—someone wrote out the melody to “Happy Birthday” on a piece of paper, so you could hear it in your head even though no one sang it. So I got to lose my cake and eat it too.

All this is good, but the desperation continues to build. It’s been said that smart people have a harder time awakening, but if they can awaken, they can be of more use to the world. I might be close to the very edge of this: any smarter and I’d never even give awakening a second thought, just brush it off as one more giant memetic clusterfuck used to dupe and manipulate people. Or maybe I’d try and solve it with tech instead of just rolling up my sleeves and digging through the years and generations of habitual garbage the old-fashioned way.

So, it’s hard. I don’t even know if it’s possible. I don’t know what I’m doing here, and I have very little hope of being of benefit. Fine. Just keep going.