A very warm welcome!

Thanks for visiting this, my second blog! You can visit Heart and Soil to see what I get up to on our 40 odd acres of land in Exmoor, basketry, crafts and general things and stuff.

I thought I would start this blog off by doing a day by day diary of my 2008 solitary retreat. You can find my posts on the preparation for this retreat over at Heart and Soil on this link:

Many people have said to me that they wish they could do a solitary retreat, because 'they really need one'. That's why I decided to share one of my retreat experiences, to hopefully make going on retreat alone, a bit less mysterious and a bit more 'doable'.

Offered with much love for your continued happiness!

Solitary Retreat Diary

Please remember that in order for the diary section of this blog to make sense you should start from Day 1 and work your way through. At the moment the best way to do this is by using the labels list on the right.

I will compile a links list to make this easier when I have posted the last day... and when I have a minute!


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Day 2 - Second Dayitus, 6 Element Practice

Had a wonderful nights sleep. It’s raining, so mainly indoory things today. I will be getting outside at some point though, whatever the weather, I need to meet the trees in the garden properly. There are Rowans, Holly, Ash, Scots Pine, Hawthorns, Willow, Sycamores and Damsons. Did the same practice this morning as I did last night. Breathing meditation, puja and then Just sitting meditation.

Then I set to, waxing my spinning wheel. It was a bit fiddly but satisfying and looks lovely. It's going to be great learning to spin here, surrounded by silence and sheep. Can't quite believe I've hoiked it all the way up here to the cottage though.

My brand new Ashford spinning wheel. That's one of my favourite baskets that I made last year too. I'm learning to knit so it's full of wool.

This lunchtime I did a breathing meditation followed by puja and then the Avalokiteshvara mantra (Om mani padme hum). A short period of Just sitting to finish. I’ve decided to do this sort of thing about 3 times a day. To set the right kind of atmosphere for practice and plan to build up to meditating most of the day.

I’m not having any major breakthroughs or flashes of insight in my meditation. But then this is only my second day! What I am feeling is a soft letting go. I’m not getting any sense of exactly what I am letting go of, it is subtle and it is most welcome.

This evening I did a much longer puja. Including dedications to the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). I started off doing the Avalokiteshvara mantra (Om mani padme hum). So beautiful. In the middle of the puja I felt moved to hold the Vajra that was on the shrine and begin the Padmasambhava mantra (Om ah hum, Jetsun guru padma siddhi hum). Very strong. That is what I need. I MUST reinvigorate myself and use my strength again. I’ve woosed out these past few years and grown lazy, apathetic and been all over the place. It’s energy I need. I don't know much about Padmasambhava. All I know at the moment is that he has a very powerful, energetic and strong presence. Might be something to do with the striking Padmasambhava carving above the shrine in the meditation room!

This is the shrine room. It was a little attic space that was very welcoming and peaceful.

I spent a bit of time trying to go for a walk today, locked gates and barbed wire at every path though. It was a real disapointment, almost felt like an aggresive act blocking the footpaths. The area around the cottage feels very small at the moment. On a positive note... This evening the light was stunning!

The Scots pine at the side of the cottage. The evening light was consistantly beautiful.

*Studying the 6 element practice at the moment. It is basically a meditation on the 6 elements in this order:


Earth being the least subtle element and consciousness being the most subtle. Meditating on this helps to realise that in absolute reality we are 'nothing'. 'Nothing' is not a perfect word to describe what is meant though. The term 'nothing' refers to the experience of interconnectedness that leads to the letting go of our perception of self.

* What I've written here is my interpretation of the 6 Element practice. Which is limited to my level of study and contemplation of the elements. If you want a reliably accurate description of the elements have a hunt about on the net for an explanation from a reputable source. I got my information from Sangharakshita's book, 'What is the Dharma?' and from my own experience.

Earth - skin, organs and bones - We feed ourselves from the Earth to live. The solidity of our skin and bones tricks us into forgetting that we are in a process of constant change. With cells dying and regrowing every moment. A cycle of being fed by the Earth and constantly being returned to the Earth, moment by moment. Where in that cycle do we begin and end?

Water - We are over 70% water - This water isn't static, it's flowing, streamlike, through our bodies. It comes from springs, lakes and reservoirs through our bodies returning to rivers, oceans and clouds. This is happening all the time, we sweat, we wee, we cry, we dribble.

Fire - Our energy, our heat - Ultimately our life's heat is derived from the Sun. We take heat in directly from the Sun or through our food that was fed by the Sun.

Air - Our breath, our life - Probably the one element that we can instantly experience as constantly changing. At no point can we say that the air we breathe is ours. We don't generate the oxygen that we need to exist, it is provided for us by trees and plants and in return we give what they need, the Co2 to survive. Where do we begin and they end?

Space - The 'space' our body occupies - If you see that our body is made up of the 4 elements above then you will also see that those bundles of elements require a space to exist in. "when those constiuent parts - 'elements' - have gone their seperate ways again, that space will be empty of the body that formerly occupied it. This empty space will merge back into Universal space." (Sangharakshita)

Consciousness - Our conscious awareness of the elements that form us comes through our five senses and through our mind. What happens when we die? When our consciousness no longer has our senses to feed it? When we die the elements that made us move on to other things, there is no 'body' to be conscious of. Our consciousness is therefore absorbed back into universal consciousness. [?]

This practice is just incredible. It really offers a sense of just how interconnected we are and therefore how 'not seperate' we are. Experiencing our interconnectedness opens up the possiblility that we are not an individual, solid entity, that there is no 'hen' to speak of, there is no bit of me that I can point to and say with conviction 'this bit here is definately what makes me hen'. It's very liberating and a great lesson in humility and gratitude too. I do feel though that I need a bit of guidance on it or some support from others that practice it.

I basically need a teacher and a sangha!!

Tonight has been a bit flat. I can feel the fear creeping in but so far I’ve managed to look the other way. The winds picking up and the noises are making me skittish!

I am not listening to Radiohead, I am not listening to Radiohead, I WILL NOT listen to Radiohead, I am not going to blinky well listen to Radiohe….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz .....

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