December 2017 Monthly Review

December divided into three sections. First, the work period of early December, the eleven day awakening retreat, and about a vacation week spent back home for the holidays.

MAPLE

MAPLE continues to evolve with new residents, new trails, fundraising, and more. Early December is a blur. I continued to step back from daily operations to let other residents rise. A lot of the work was doing whatever was necessary from figuring out our budget to planning the January retreat.

I feel unclear what will happen next year with a fertile field of possibilities. I await to see which options shake out. I committed to staying through 2018 and likely beyond.

PSYCH / HEALTH

I can’t seem to keep a consistent, intensive workout schedule. I’m going to commit to at least two intensive weight training workouts each week using a mixture of Baye’s system with bodyweight and dumb bells. Other days, I’ve been practicing Qigong and Taichi and made plans with other residents to learn contact improv and other forms of Qigoing.

An old resident and great friend came for the December retreat. He told me that despite creating his dream life, it just wasn’t all that great and coming around to the necessity for deep awakening practice again. That really destroyed me since I often thought of him as my model for leaving the monastery and building a good life.

The main tension for me is accepting the fact that maybe I’m suited for monastic life and will be here for a long time. I still have these ingrained ideas that I’m not successful unless I have a good life partner and financial wealth. Yet, when I really work through that story, I always come back to doing intensive awakening practice anyway.

The retreat and time home afterwards really challenged and shifted attachments around anxiety for my parents, financial stability, and needing a romantic partner.

MEDITATION

The eleven day retreat was very intense. I don’t even know how to share about it.

I feel a call towards prioritizing awakening more this next year and I actually believe awakening is possible. Before, I scoffed at the idea of maintaining concentration 24/7 even during working hours. But, it seems possible and necessary now.

Highlights of the retreat include really questioning every thought and distraction that arose. If every pain and discomfort is really manufactured by me (at least the resistance to experience) then why? How? Who? Who’s doing it? Who’s resisting? Why? It’s like I was a puppet seeing my strings behind pulled by some invisible puppet master and questioning who is this master? How do I get free?

Also, I had this experience before, maybe a year ago, this type of full surrender where sensations of bliss overtake my body to the point of physical over stimulation and discomfort. It feels very powerful and purifying. When I’m actually with my experience and not distracting myself, there’s often this deep knot in my core. I think most sensitive people are familiar with this knot sensation. That knot is some part of myself resisting surrender. On the other side of the knot and tightness is bliss and surrender. It’s amazing how much my ego resists going into the letting go and how overwhelming the bliss is. Letting go feels like choosing to die. Soryu says the discomfort of the overwhelming bliss is just because we’re more adapted/used to pain than joy and so ostensibly I’ll get used to it eventually and won’t be so scared of the overwhelming joy.

Seung Sahn’s message about keep don’t know mind and go straight really made sense this retreat. This constant checking of whether things are going well or not, of doubting my experience is so constant. Just throwing all of that aside and reminding myself constantly to just keep doing a technique. If it’s going well then most likely at some point I’ll face extreme doubt and discomfort as things unravel and seems like this is the worse thing I should definitely not be doing. Yet, with enough time, the confusion and resistance subsides and something new emerges.

During sits, I was really questioning what comes before consciousness? In Buddhism, they talk about realizing what comes prior to consciousness. Consciousness arises from habit patterns. Habit patterns in turn arise based on ignorance. It was troubling to see how much my consciousness seemed to be motivated by scarcity and greed. Biggest hindrance by far on retreat was thinking about cryptocurrencies I’m sad to say. But, I kept wanting to figure out this core ignorance.

I don’t want to go into details here, but Soryu pushed those of us who stayed in the “Dragon” zendo to really choose and commit and go for it. I think it was the most powerful retreat for all of us that were in that room.

My long term solitary retreat likely will begin in February. One more month to settle affairs and get things in order. My parents were surprisingly very non-chalent about me entering three month retreat, it wasn’t even a one minute discussion.

CIRCLING

Circling took a bit of a backseat this past month. Due to time and space limitations, I didn’t do any in Burlington. We continued doing some sessions at the monastery among the residents.

Noticing my own discomfort and consistency when describing what I do with old friends or just doing it outside of a circling context. My own doubts and inadequacy and fears come up.

I’m going to be doing a 3rd year of Circling Europe SAS six month course in NYC, got invited to come and assist and practice with them. Looking forward to it. I originally said I couldn’t do it because it would conflict with the solo retreat and that was extremely hard for me to do. But turns out they’re open to me missing parts of the course so I can work around it.

MISC LIFE
Very happy to see my old friend and former resident Daniel come back for December retreat. We have a strong common understanding and interest that unfortunately I have found very very few others to share with. Looking forward to possible future collaboration with him.

CRYPTO
December was a wild ride up to record highs and then pulling back drastically. At one pint I had doubled my initial investment but it’s gone down a bit since then. I regret not having more patience to wait for the pull back as I invested more funds around the highs. Most or all of my capital is invested at this point. Using Bitcoin.tax I figured out my capital gains for the year and I don’t want to do anymore trading since it may push my tax bracket too high. I’m still very optimistic about crypto, it’ll be challenging to be gone for three months while it’s doing its thing. Hopefully it doesn’t crash while i’m gone. I invested a tiny bit into Ripple which has nearly grown 1000% from 20 cents to 2 dollars. Most of my money though is in the 50%-150% profit range unrealized gains.

I’ve spent the past week in Delaware at my parent’s house. I got to see a lot of my old friends, old boss, and such. Had a lot of phone calls primarily with old and new residents. Really like doing work/projects with people. In prior years, I would think i’m depressed but i just don’t get a kick out of eating out or small talk. I like learning and doing work with people. City life doesn’t really appeal to me in the way most people seem to do it in terms of going out to eat expensive, unhealthy food and chat about inane topics. I’m glad the friends I’ve cultivated, we have possibility for some depth. The highlight, maybe because it came last, was going to a Russian grocery store with friends for the first time in Philly. Something about the newness was fascinating to me. On the other hand, apart from training or special events like weddings, I don’t feel called to come back home again until next Christmas. Sorry to say my connections in VT at this point are stronger or more related than anywhere else.

JAN Plans
Doing a 2nd circling weekend at the monastery this coming Friday.

January Circling SAS NYC.

Then that’s it. Another week long retreat. Finishing and delegating out my responsibility work. Going into the cabin and trusting the rest to fall where they may.

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