What a month!
Preparing to write this post, the amount of new projects and events from October shocked me. Before, I was a little disappointed with myself for not consistently staying with certain goals like exercise. But, this review helped me realize my slipping in some areas makes sense considering all the other successes and hard work. I just did a lot this month.
The biggest shift has been leveling up as a teacher, facilitator, and leader. In September, I was the retreat manager for a significant week long program with Shinzen Young. This October, I was the teacher and leader for several events. In addition, this month saw a renewal of ambitions and goals both old and new.
Reminder, this piece is part of a continuing series of monthly reviews where I reflect on what happened in the past thirty days and what to aim towards in the next thirty days. Not only as a way to keep track of my gains and keep me accountable but also as a way to stay focused and continue my public writing habit. This is the second post of the series.
This post will cover the usual areas:
- Monastic Academy
- Misc Life
- November Plans
I lead the first ever Circling & Meditation retreat. This was possibly the first event anywhere formally putting together circling and meditation in the same program. Each morning, we did a minimum of one hour of practice and silent breakfast to ground ourselves in our own experience before jumping into circling. We had a 3 day (FRI-SUN) component and then a week-long piece (SUN-FRI). About sixteen guests came for the weekend along with the nine residents. Then we had four guests throughout the week-long with the residents.
I was very pleased at how very well it all went. We began with some silent practice with ourselves and each other the first night. Then we expanded into dyads on the second morning and then dropped into birthday circles for the remainder of the weekend. Most of the people reported amazing insights, healing, and transformation.
The week-long was even more amazing and intense. We shed birthday circles and went straight for surrendered leadership style. All of the residents now are fully on board with circling and hungry for more. I’m almost startled at how different some folks are now.
I’m also encouraged that we have an offering that attracts a crowd at minimum marketing cost and not reliant on our head teacher or outside facilitators. One resident remarked that it has great potential to help teams and groups “gel” or develop deep team cohesion based on mutual care. We are in a unique position to do this since we’re the only residential, practicing team that does circling together regardless of whether we want to or not.
One thing I was particularly happy for this retreat that was unlike any previous circling was that all the residents with our meditation background were very interested in exploring how eye gazing can be used to supercharge our meditation and enter deep states of concentration, clarity, and equanimity. Using our meetings as an opportunity to get awakened.
I also saw areas I can still grow in circling. Particularly in staying in the intensity with another person on an equal, vulnerable level on a sort of energetic level where I don’t understand what’s happening. I also realized that my voice and attitude carried the facilitator voice too much and repeatedly checked whether I was coming from a leader attitude. A few times, I prefaced my shares, “I’m not speaking as a facilitator here, I just don’t like this.”
The residents are going to explore expanding the time we practice circling at the Academy along with testing out more offerings for the public.
Sunday Sit Talk
Earlier in the month, before the circling retreat, I led the Sunday sit talk after facilitating a four hour circling session. I felt extremely tired and yet lead one of my best talks with everyone thanking me afterwards. My talk covered my experience of doing my first solo retreat and the lessons I learned including starting over and trusting the process to do the work below and beyond my understanding. I lead two guided sessions with one meditation on cultivating relaxation and concentration in the body and another on relational practice dyads of letting go and staying relaxed with another person. The Q&A was great, and one community member commented that our training is perfect preparation for marriage aka Monastic Academy teaches deep meditation, leadership development, and marriage training! Audio recording of the talk will be available soon.
A lot is happening at the Academy. We have been on-boarding a new trial resident this past month with two more joining in November. We continue renovations for the main building. Soryu is returning from his long training period and very excited/nervous to see what happens. And much more.
Last month, I really dove into studying C-PTSD and trauma. Since then, I’ve slowed down and got wrapped up in other work. But, I definitely have been seeing the relational trauma play out in my mind, emotions, and body. It was particularly useful in circling to notice my lifelong relational broken patterns playing out and not forcing them to leave and also not buying into them. A lot of fear of abandonment, distrust, and fear of disappointment came up. Noticing how I react to all of it by withdrawing and getting resentment and angry or depressed and low energy.
Ever since the last retreat, I’ve been noticing the subtle feelings of freezing and tension in my lower body particularly around my abdomen, groin, and upper legs. Whereas, in the past year, this tension often felt like a big block of tightness, it’s almost always accessible now as a more subtle, open, and constantly changing phenomenon. It drops occasionally in deep relaxation or deep connection with others. But, it’s startling to see just how much I’m tightened up and living in what I perceive to be fear and doubt so much of the time.
Another insight I gleaned was just how much I hesitate away from getting my hopes up too high in fear of getting disappointed. When everyone else gets super excited about something, I tend to pump the brakes a little bit. I’m uncomfortable around excitement and dreams of the future without clear groundwork. I’m not an optimistic dreamer it turns out. I want to work on this.
Most of all, noticing whether I’m fully experiencing my feelings or staying at a distance in thoughts analyzing/watching my feelings. None of this is new territory but it’s much more clear and present as an option to drop into.
I did my own first ever 5 day solo retreat in our solo cabin early October. I went into it thinking I would really breakthrough but immediately revised my goals to just making it through the five days. There was a ton of distractions within me and took a long time to build any momentum. I changed my practice from intensive concentration on breathe towards simply feeling relaxation in my body and emphasizing the relaxation and concentration loop. After the retreat, I noticed a lot more joy in connection with others. I cover the details in the Sunday sit talk which will be available soon.
These days, I’ve been focusing a lot more on relaxation rather than concentration. I’m not sure yet if it’s just plain laziness. But, I seem to concentrate inward to the point that I lose consciousness often and easily and yet my body is completely solid and not moving. So, it’s not exactly sleep but has that relaxed easy quality but lacks my usual concentration/clarity. Excited to have Soryu back to give me feedback.
Big month for circling. I already covered co-leading the week long retreat with my fellow resident Miles. I also did two long sessions in Burlington which were both really great. I’m looking forward to finally working with others to build out the Vermont community to have more regular sessions.
I’m really good at providing a safe, supported grounded space. I had three or more big breakthroughs with people holding space. I’m weak though on my edge of following my intuition when I’m worried it’ll be received poorly especially when it contains an edge of challenging people. Particularly in the non-verbal energetic/physical type meetings. But I’m working on it. I’ve gotten a lot of confidence and trust that the circling process just works and I know how to tap into it.
I’m contemplating more training for next year, possibly Avalon week long.
Little Women was written in the 1860s yet it’s surprisingly and also depressingly still relevant in terms of feminist qualities. What struck me the most was the character/moral building part of the story. Here was a story where hard manual labor was seen as honorable, parents were respected and loved, and family meant everything. It’s a real change from this century’s cynical works like Game of Thrones. It felt much more useful and inspiring to live a better life.
The Goal and It’s Not Luck are both business/operations books written in novel form. They tell the basic Theory of Constraints. Among the two of the best business/operations books I’ve ever read and still digesting how to integrate them into how I operate.
An Astronaut’s Guide was similar to Little Women in the building positive character and living a good life. There were a lot of gems in there like aiming to be a zero when you first join a team/group/company (don’t cause any problems, don’t try to prove your worth so quickly, just shut up and listen and help where you can).
I’ve also been exploring cryptocurrency a lot this past month. I’m disappointed I didn’t follow my hunch years ago to invest heavily in bitcoin and regretting it now. I think there’s still a huge, huge potential here and planning to invest into it. I’m still on the initial heavy research phase though. It would be very easy to lose all my money if it’s not done well.
I’ve been exercising a lot more this past month although I fell off this past week. It really came up for me as a goal after the solo retreat. I’m doing some mixture of HIIT sprinting on the treadmill, intensive body weight training based on Drew Baye’s system, and similarly with dumbbells. Also bought a bunch of tools like measuring tape and calibers to take body measurements since weight alone seems to be a very inaccurate gauge. I don’t have a good system worked out for the exercise yet which has plagued me for years. But, it’s a second order priority for me these next few months. I like HIIT and Drew’s system because they rely on short intensive workouts that are super simple and less likely to get injured.
Writing isn’t going too well, I dropped off on daily writing. I have a few in the pipeline including a piece on gratitude for negative life experiences. I’m thinking about writing on cryptocurrency more too. I made a new commitment to write at least one sentence/day instead.
My friend Michael did an interview with me. We go over a lot of meditation, body practices, and philosophy. We’re both geeks when it comes to high level thinking, meditation, and body stuff.
I’ve been jazzed getting back into Productivity & Accountability. I’m using a lot of Sebastian Marshall‘s tools like WorkCycles and Lights Spreadsheet for deep focused work and habit tracking respectively. I’ve been keeping track of my personal weekly work and exercises in Evernote. I spent this past weekend examining my workflow and project management. Too early to say any of the new stuff will stick. Read through Plaintext Productivity. Don’t agree with the using a plain text file for todo list (mainly the lack of offline syncing between devices), but I like his suggestions on Markdown for writing drafts and general file structure. Using RememberTheMilk instead for my daily priority ToDo and like the idea of always having a prioritized list of what I’m doing now and what I’m doing next. Still trying to grapple how to best use Evernote for projects though.
Today is November 4th. I’m currently in my parent’s home finishing this post up. The month feels relatively short with the holidays coming.
My plan for this month is to primarily consolidate all the new changes and make them consistent and stable. Exercise, writing, habit tracking, evolving the productivity system, moving circling to the next level for this next year, researching more into crypto and so on.