I've been trying to find a way to write about being on retreat for four months. It's not easy, or not possible, to explain, because the conditions there are such as I have never experienced before, and may not experience agan. I remember thinking, every day feels like a year. Part of the reason was how low-tech we lived.
I had no computer, no phone, no washing machine, no shower (at least in the sense that we usually mean that word.) I had to write talks with my hand holding a pen, which was probably a lot harder (for me) than it sounds. When it was cold, some heat came from a wood burning stoves or the furnace; we used composting toilets outside; daily burning of toilet paper. We made (well I didn't make them, but anyway we did not buy) yogurt and bread and sprouts. I was not able to go into a store or even see a store or things for sale for the three long months. I forgot about money, and keys, which I am usually carrying every day of my life.
Another aspect of the greatly simplified surroundings were the people. We were the same people, the same faces, the same clothes, day in and day out. I got to where I could just see half a forearm in my periperal vision and be able to tell who it was. Often I didn't have to see people at all. I would think of someone, then a moment later they would come into the room.
These conditions make one's mental processes simpler, more raw, and at the same time, kinder; they make time really long. They eliminate the friction that lives on a surface we are so accustomed to we really don't have the slightest idea that it is there. Much if not most of the time on the retreat I would not have described my mental state as 'calm'. The difference between there and here is more like the difference between a primary color and a secondary color. The secondary color isn't wrong, it's just not as basic, not as elemental.
I felt so much love, so much completely natural and spontaneous love. I felt that I was with my family in the most positive sense of that word. Of course, you don't really know what's going to go down once you're somewhere else. For example, from almost the moment the retreat was over, I was assailed by craving.
[photo by and of me, taken at akashavana, june 2009]