This was not the only thing going through my head during the retreat, mind you. In fact, it wasn’t even near top billing. Each time I came around to the fact that my attention wasn’t on my breath, but in any of all sorts of places, maybe only 2% of the time on the Zka annoyance. I found myself thinking about clients, about my dream schedule, about how to get more of what I like and less of what I don’t, about which photos to frame should I ever get around to printing them, about if I could make it to the Vietnamese sandwich shop and back before lunch, about if I should frame photos at all if I’m going to move to [somewhere warm], about my broken sofa bed, about how many beach days are left this summer, about my favorite person in the world maybe visiting soon, about the fabulous trip to Vermont, about OH’s incredible generosity, about an old friend I’d treated poorly, realized (shame), apologized, and am glad to have back in my life, about the nice things I might like to do to for said friend, about how I will ever fit my yoga, sitting mediation, writing, and other centering stuff into my daily schedule every day not just most days, about whether my meditation instructor believed I was really taking an afternoon off to spend with Zka, about if I were going to lie wouldn’t I think up a better one than hanging out with a friend!?, about how I find no honor in getting up at 5am for yoga this week or ever and think that even my usual 5:45am is less than ideal, about my grocery list, about my projections and authority issues and maybe my MI totally did believe me but just thought it was a stupid reason to skip out, about running home for a nap at lunch, about if I can find a good mysore teacher who starts at 7a or 8a, about getting Angela’s package to the post office in time for her to get it before she leaves, about a trip to Paris, about the tremendous power of projection at play in romantic love and how else to harness it, about the possibility of romantic love without projection, about why I have to have a muse to be at all productive, about my best friend from Berkeley, about a trip to Maui, about the amazing retreat I did here about a month ago with a teacher I thought I’d hate but adored. You get the idea. Zka wasn’t dominating center stage, and I won’t thrill you with the knowledge of what (or who) was. It doesn’t matter.
There was space between all of this, understand, and a thousand times dragging attention back to breath. The spaces were sometimes large and sometimes small like claustrophobia. But they were there.
Thursday, the second of last day of the retreat, I left at lunch to go to the beach with Zka for the last time. I wanted to keep silence, just to see how it’d be, and so I could swim in silence. Swimming is very calming and meditative for me, and I wanted to fit it into my retreat somehow. But Zka didn’t show. She said she didn’t get the text until late that afternoon. It was fine, and maybe for the best. When I realized she wasn’t coming, I thought, “Should I go back to the retreat?” But that felt weird as I’d already asked out. And even more, my centered self said, “Go to the beach anyway.” I’d done enough long meditation retreats to not feel I had to prove to myself or anyone I could do the whole thing. I needed to do what felt best to me, even if it’d be a little sad going alone. So I went. I hadn’t been to the beach alone all summer, and I usually went with Zka. So, being there alone, still in silence after almost two weeks of retreat, was, well, even more meditative than sitting on my ass on W22nd Street for hours at a time.
I got iced tea. I set out my stuff. I swam. I dried in the sun. I read a meditation book. I noticed how I felt. I swam again, and felt my breath. I used my discipline to go farther than I wanted to swim. I kept going. I enjoyed being alone. And I missed Zka. I people watched the nutballs. I thought of the stories I would tell Zka about them. It was my usual afternoon at the beach, but alone. I like being alone. I know this and I noticed it again. But I also very much missed Zka. And I was a little bit annoyed by that. So I went back to enjoying my solitude.
I arrived home at about the same time I would have from the retreat. The next day was a new moon, which meant I didn’t have to get up early (there is no mysore on moon day). That was nice. I relaxed a bit before I walked to Shambhala. That last morning of the retreat, after skipping out the previous afternoon, I really settled. I felt better, happier, more centered than I had in the last two weeks (months, years?).
And then came the tears.
This is part iii of why meditate, thoughts on my two 1-week back-to-back meditation retreats:
part i, part ii, part iii, part iv, & part v. An abridged version for moderns exists at Shambhala New York.