Doing Retreat in Prison
By Dale Moore ©
I live in an open dorm with 300 men. All those people you see on
the news doing bad things live with me. For the most part, they
are completely egocentric. Noise, movement, interruptions are the
normal occurrence for me, all the time.
I was doing 30 to 40 minutes of Qigong
(moving mediation) the Tai Chi variation, but the 'system' developed
a fear of this. They don't understand, and I have found people tend
to fear what they don't understand. So the 'Police' banned me from
doing it, at least for now. I am working on having approval for
this. Maybe in a year.
I've never had the good fortune of actually
meeting a lama before. Almost of all my practices come from books
or letters. I wish I could have been at the initiation given by
Lama Zopa Rinpoche. I've read a few of his books.
You do six sessions a day! I can't
even imagine that here. While I'm doing the sadhana, someone will
bump the bunk bed (I'm on top) or turn on the light (it's 2½
feet from my face). I also do not recommend chanting while rap music
is playing. Or the 'Police' are making announcement over the loud
speaker. Or my favorite, the fire alarm, where we all go outside.
There is no wood or paint in this human warehouse, and the mattresses
are fire retardant. Amusing. I look at it like this. I read about
a Zen student who went to mediate on a street corner, so he could
develop non-attachment to his senses. I figure this is the bootcamp
for meditation development. If I can do this here, I can meditate
anywhere. I tend to stand out here; this is a society that judges
all actions by violence and strength. I'm not putting these people
down (I am one of them). For the most part we are addicted to our
attachments, all of them, but mostly it's greed all the way.
So when you said that your mind &
experience has been all over the place, I know exactly what you're
talking about. Fever, flu, cold - yeah, been through that. The runny
nose is interesting, but the bad gas is by far the winner, especially
expelling it. I am a vegetarian, and this prison seems to think all
we eat is beans, so I get plenty, sometimes cooked, sometimes not.
I am not following the list of the ten
destructive actions in order to find things to purify. I have no
problem finding harmful actions to regret. They seem to line up,
asking to be next! My focus had been that daily moment-to-moment
mental anger that I direct at people in general. For example, someone
bumps into me and doesn't apologize. Then all these negative thoughts
and emotions arise. The practice is working and helping me with
this. I do notice a difference. Throughout the day, when these negative
thoughts start to grow, I repeat the short Vajrsattva mantra as
a sort of penance /weed killer. The overall result is that I am
much more attuned to my thinking, and that's my goal. In fact, it's
the most important one for me at present. The practice benefits
me (I actually, physically and mentally feel better) and so I tend
to be more tolerant and understanding. In that way everybody benefits
from my doing this practice!