Buddha Puzzle, © G. Gyatso
I know some ambitious people - and a few quasi-famous ones. Almost without exception they have shown me that the American definition of 'success' comes with toxic levels of stress. Our methods of coping with nervous tension sometimes include a little too much wine with dinner; or the joys of insomnia; or a midnight pint of Haagan Daz. Often in the fray of a Type-A existence, our circuits simply short-out, vaporizing patience, humor, libido.
The roots of the word ambition are in the activity of walking a circuit to gather up political power. If we look to the body politic, our 10%+ unemployment rate may be conveying a simple enough message: It is time to redefine what we call 'productive' activity. In an effort to discover how to think outside of the cube, many people have taken up the art of meditation or Centering Prayer - setting aside a daily half-hour to permit body/mind/spirit to come back into communion.
In anticipation of this era of rapid transformation, some of us have been meditating for a while – a few months or a few decades. Had we been born in Asia, our meditative path would have flowed into a monastery or ashram. But this is the West, and the very meaning of our spiritual inquiry is distinctive, even as we adopt and adapt the spiritual techniques of Gautama, Patanjali or Ibn’Arabi. For us, what lies beyond what we might call 'maintenance meditation'?
Close Intensive Retreat (CIR) is one possibility. CIR is a temporary cooling from the heat of our ambition, used by contemplatives, creatives, artists, normals -- anyone ready to deepen their intuition and listen more closely for their authentic calling.
Two features distinguish this practice from the more convivial R&R of group or open retreat. ‘Close’ means the practice –both spatially and psychologically-- is sealed, carried out in solitude or (in the case of some Tantric practices) with a consort. ‘Intensive’ means the only activities engaged during the retreat are related to a specific spiritual goal.
The Triangle Austin Apartments and Humandala Unlimited are sponsoring a workshop on how to conduct Close Intensive Retreat on Sunday, April 11 from 2-4:30 p.m. This workshop will discuss the purpose and organization of Close Intensive Retreat, as well as how to set boundaries, focus intention, and some suggestions for the contents of the retreat.