What Now!?!

I’m not yet two days back. 

I returned from Colorado Sunday evening. A full day’s travel concluded the remarkable journey that was this year’s Winter Meditation Intensive at Dharma Ocean’s Blazing Mountain Retreat Centre in Crestone.

Roughly one hundred fifty people came and went during the four-week event, some staying for seven days, others remaining onsite for as much as a month. We spent between eight and nine hours day in the facility’s high-beamed shrine room. That’s eight to nine hours a day in silence - a practice which actually extended even further than this. That’s eight to nine hours a day engaging the Somatic Practice of Pure Awareness.

It has an impact, sitting so long together. Toward month’s end, my own sense of the space around us had refined significantly. The air became still beyond movement. Sometimes it felt I could reach out and touch that stillness; rub it like fine diamond granules between thumb and forefinger. Sometimes it felt I could hear that stillness singing. 

It’s an understandable adjustment, returning home from such an experience. A certain amount of fatigue and disorientation greeted me early Monday morning when I awoke in my own bed, my own home, my own city and landscape. Sitting on the couch, gazing wearily toward the distant Sooke hills, I thought more than a few times, ‘Well, what now!?!’

This is not, I suspect, an uncommon contemplation. I would not be surprised to learn that many among that one hundred fifty, have been raising this since leaving the retreat. After such a truly extraordinary time together, what is one to do now!?!

Many years ago, in the midst of a similar retreat with Reggie, the same inquiry arose amongst those in attendance. Early one afternoon, a surprising series of events unfolded within the program. As dinner neared and those events wound toward their end, a sense of shock and elation sparkled shrine room. ‘What now!?!’ many of us wondered. ‘After something like that, what the heck do we do now!?!’ 

Sensing this question - perhaps even feeling it himself - Reggie took the mike and stood in our midst. “When we practice with faith and devotion,” he told us, “remarkable things happen.” In my own memory, a long pause followed these words. A long, drawn out interlude in which I tried to anticipate what was coming next. Even with a span of hours available, however, I would have never guessed how that statement was about to conclude.

“When we practice with faith and devotion,” Reggie told us, “remarkable things happen. And then we return to the cushion.” Which is exactly what we did.

So I am not yet two days back from a revelatory month in Crestone. While I will admit the matter of ‘What now!?’ has bubbled forth on more than a few occasions in this time, it’s always greeted with something of a smile on my part. Because every arising brings with it that memory noted just above. A memory of the night Reggie offered counsel that I still try to abide by all these many years later.

What now that another month of meditation and retreat has concluded? What now that I find myself back in our neighbourhood coffee shop with a lenghtening series of emails pinging their demand for attention, groceries to purchase and dinner to ready? What now!?!

Very simply, I get back to it…

- Neil