Appreciate whatever the present moment presents to you, a deeper dimension within yourself.
So, this is a retreat, with ODS ( Off Duty Sick ) RCMP Officer Ryan Tobin, ODS Alberta Sheriff Traffic Unit Chad Kennedy, our dear friend Natasha Johnson who is a volunteer Fire fighter in Alberta and our photographer Jill Brown.
Day 2 Canada Day Camp 2021
You’ve been taken out of your usual surroundings and put here. For some of you who have come from more distant places, this is a very natural environment, with wild birds, animals and gigantic lizards, and all kinds of wonderful things. Trees, that if you’re not familiar with this part of the world, that you’ve never seen before.
So, all this is wonderful and helpful. It can be a helpful thing to be in unusual surroundings because it’s easier to be more present in unusual surroundings. That’s the advantage of being here at Camp My Way. And that’s why as I’ve written somewhere, many people feel more alive when they are here.
And when they’re at home, their surroundings are so familiar that they lose presence completely.
They don’t see things anymore. They go from where they live, to work or wherever so many times they don’t see it anymore, and you would be surprised even at home, your usual surroundings you might have .. painting on your walls … and haven’t looked at them in the past three years…might be very beautiful; or your garden or the plants in there. So, this is the familiarity that can lead to a kind of semi sleep-like state.
And when you’re traveling you go, “Oh”.
The good thing is you might not even have a name for all the new things you see at home. You know what everything is called, but here you see things…you might see a weird animal. The mind stops because you can’t name it and that’s a wonderful thing. Or you see trees you haven’t seen before and go, “Ah”. Or you might say to your friend, “Look at that”. You might notice the moment of looking at that, you’re not naming it in your mind because you don’t know what it’s called.
There’s a moment…a few seconds of just being present…being present rather than the naming person.
So, let’s hope you’re here. We’re here for a few days. Let’s hope that by the last day, this place will not have become so familiar to you that you’re not looking anymore. It helps to be wide awake to your sense perceptions because that is one way of coming into the present moment. Which is why we are here. Because there is more to the present moment than we realize.
Most of the time there’s more to it. It’s the access point to the deeper dimension within yourself. As a general same underlying theme for our retreat, I recommend, surprisingly, that you practice being in the present moment. We have this helpful thing that you are in unusual surroundings unless you live just a few miles from here…then it may be a harder job. Or you might even live next door. However, although you’ve been taken out of your usual surroundings you have carried with you something else…and of course, that’s your mind that travels with you wherever you go.
That is perhaps the meaning of the book that somebody wrote…I believe the title is “Wherever you Go, there you Are”. So, wherever you go you carry your mind and the conditioning of your mind with you.
So, that is the challenge here on our retreat. To transcend the conditioning of your mind…the habitual way of interpreting…the habitual way of reacting to things. Habitual mind patterns, if a mind pattern in you, is that you frequently, and very quickly, become discontent with where you are…if that’s a pattern in you, then that pattern will arise here also.
If your mind pattern is one that loves complaining and finding fault with things, then it’s very likely that, very quickly, this mind pattern will appear here also, even though you’re in these wonderful, natural and unusual surroundings.
The first thing you might complain about is the dinosaurs. The minds say, “I’d rather see a big Buddha”, or something like that. Or the mind says, “We’ve come here on a spiritual retreat. Isn’t there supposed to be a Buddha somewhere?”. You get surprising things.
Things that your expectations are not met in various ways and that is a challenge to the mind…the conditioned mind, because the conditioned mind wants its expectations met. And, if they are not met, it gets uneasy, restless, irritated, angry. It starts talking about what’s wrong…either silently in your mind or to others. If others can agree with you, then it’s even better. Or you can go on the internet and then you get 1,000 people agreeing with you. You always find those. In some of you, maybe one or two of you, you have that complaint pattern.
I’m not saying if there’s something really wrong you shouldn’t do something to rectify it. If something is leaking in your room say, “No, I’m not going to say anything because I’m not supposed to complain”. No, of course, you go to reception and say there’s something there that needs to be rectified. It’s not a complaint. It’s just information. “Complaint” means there is an emotion behind it. The emotion says this should not be happening. Then it becomes a complaint or it’s your fault…then it becomes a complaint. If it’s simply presenting information, it’s not a complaint…it’s just a fact and then the question is, can anything be done about it?
If yes…good…or they say nothing we can do…do you go on insisting that this is very bad and create suffering for yourself? Or do you simply then accept this is what is and there is no situation ever, including a retreat in a wonderful, almost perfect place, except for the dinosaurs.
For some of you, an almost perfect place as far as the natural environment is concerned, it’s that you can’t imagine anything more. The profusion of meditation and aliveness that surrounds you…you can not imagine anything more wonderful…and yet it’s not perfect and not just because of the dinosaurs. There will be other things too, that are not perfect.
You can not find a place where you go where everything is just so perfect. It doesn’t exist. If it did exist, you would become incredibly, unbearably bored with saying “this is so perfect. What am I going to do now?”. But, of course, you’re lucky there is no such place.
So, there’s always something that goes wrong and that’s a wonderful thing. You can not only go anywhere, as you might know, in life. I believe I’m not the only person who can say that since I was born, life has been challenging. Ever since then, and very rarely do you get a little bit of a moment of freedom from challenges…and ah…then suddenly something drops behind you or falls on your head, metaphorically speaking. Something you can practice here is to have an expectation that things should be a certain way, and nothing should go wrong. And that reality…that external reality…should conform to exactly the expectations of the conditioned mind that creates ultimately unhappiness. Because a lot of the time, reality does not conform to the expectations of your mind. In some ways it does and in other ways it doesn’t.
Not only in a retreat, but also daily life, as you might have noticed. One damn thing after another and then the mindset, “I can’t take it anymore”. Of course, that’s just another thought that’s completely untrue. You can take anything if you drop the thought and say, “This is what is”.
So, you practice here, letting go of the expectations of your mind and live in alignment with what is internal. Alignment with what is, rather than demanding that something should be otherwise. The exception is conveying information so that something can be changed. That’s understood. Or doing it yourself. Clean it up. Do this…do that. That’s fine. But other than that, see if here, you make it your spiritual practice to live in alignment with the is-ness of the present moment and honour the present moment, and bring a kind of appreciation to the present moment.
Appreciate while you’re here…appreciate whatever the present moment presents to you.
Another word for it is, you welcome the present moment and that’s that this is actually a relatively easy place to do that. It’s not “nothing is perfect”. We know that. But this is a natural setting and it’s relatively easy here to welcome the present moment. It might be easier here that to be at a crowded airport and flights have been cancelled…stuck anywhere…or to be in the hospital…then things…big things, small things, happen wherever you go.
Welcoming the present moment is the practice that gives you access to the spiritual dimension, to that which is beyond the person in yourself. It seems too simple almost…but let that be your practice. Here you may remember, I mentioned it once or twice before, there was a Zen teacher and a disciple came to him and said, “I’m going away now on a journey for several years and since I haven’t made it, I’ve been in this monastery for five years and I still haven’t got it. Can you give me some practice for my journey?”.
And the Zen master said, “Okay, here’s your spiritual practice for the journey.
Come back in five years and let me know how it went, wherever you are, whatever situation you find yourself in, whoever you are with, and whatever happens, say “thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever”.
No matter what happens. So, if you catch the bus or miss the bus…you catch the bus, say “thanks for everything. I have no complaints”. You miss the bus, “thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever”. You’re in a lovely hotel room in a warm bed, so “thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever”. Or you’re out in the cold with nowhere to sleep…oh then it not only gets more challenging to say that. But if you say it and mean it…saying it is just words…but if you say it and mean it…when instead of being in a luxury hotel you find yourself penniless in the streets…if you say it and mean it, that will take you much deeper than being in a luxury hotel bed and saying “thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever”.
That’s relatively easy. Or you might say the pillow is not quite the way I want it, but it is relatively easy to say. But say it when you’re out in the cold and you can’t afford a hotel because you don’t have the money…or whatever…there are no hotels. Nowhere to sleep. Cold, wet. Say “thanks for everything, haha gee Thanks”.
That’s a sarcastic thank you. “Thanks god…it’s just what I needed”. That’s not the thanks…that’s not it. It’s if you say thanks…which means a total acceptance of this moment. Not a total acceptance of the “Okay, I might as well accept it for the rest of tonight. I’m going to be out in the cold”. You don’t know. Maybe a minute from now something will happen, and you’ll find somewhere, or somebody will offer you a place to sleep. It’s just, this moment, thanks for everything. Release thanks for this moment. Thanks really, here, means a total acceptance of this moment and if you accept, that takes you much deeper than accepting a moment that’s easy to accept. A very powerful spiritual practice.
Why is it so powerful? Especially when it’s when the situation is challenging and you still say it and you mean it, because everything that sustains the person…the exclusively personal sense of self…in that act of complete surrender to what is…the personal sense of self gives way to a deeper transcendent sense of self which the Buddhists call “no self”.
A deeper consciousness certainly shines through so really, it’s a kind of denying your form identity. It doesn’t mean you don’t have it anymore, but you are no longer trapped exclusively in your form identity. The form identity is strengthened the more you can be in opposition to what is the stronger.
Your form identity, “me”, the person, the “me”…the more you are in opposition to what is the stronger, the “me” becomes your form identity. If you have enemies, a lot of enemies love that it gets even stronger. They are all against me or us (make if it’s a collective ego). The collective ego loves its enemies and can’t actually survive without them.
Every collector even needs the others. Well, not us. This is us and that’s the others, so that’s the wonderful thing that the person…the exclusively personal sense of self…becomes weakened…subsides…and another something else emerges when you are no longer habitually what is. Something emerges that is deeper than the personal sense of self. The transcendent dimension presence…whatever we want to call it…your higher self or you could call it your deeper self.
Words don’t matter. But something emerges that is from beyond the person and that is a place of great power and aliveness and possibility. That is where you are connected with a vastness and with everybody else too. It’s when you feel…that transcendent dimension arises…you feel a greater sense of connectedness. No longer the separation with, not only nature, but also with other humans…you no longer feel the otherness of the other…it’s just yourself in another disguise that’s really become your experience.
Whoever you meet, there’s yourself into another disguise. Isn’t that a wonderful way of being with other humans, that essentially you can sense not only your connectedness…but you can also sense your inherent oneness with others?