A friend shared a comment inspired by my recent post “The Ox has eaten enough,” and I was instantly inspired and in love with his words, brilliant in their simplicity but surely far more complex than the short phrase might appear.
“Mostly, driving has become the place where I confront my ego on a daily basis.”
Brilliant! Love it.
My uncle shared wise words a friend of his had once told him. “It’s not always about you, ya know.”
Short, to the point, and spot on.
These comments reminded me of a message Will Duncan shared at his talk, “5 Things I Learned on Retreat,” which he offered at Prescott College this past Friday. I will share the lessons in a written moment.
In a simple, dark, button-down shirt and well-loved jeans, he walked around a podium for nearly two hours while we sat rapt, hanging on his every word. No PowerPoint. No microphone. Two small bars of chocolate that he brought to share with what he thought might be about five people for his audience. There were more like 100 people, but the chocolate bars and made it around the audience in reverse directions. A wayward clementine did not quite make it all the way.
He offered an introduction to offer context and a visual of the place he spent 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days on silent retreat. Out of the three times he spoke, twice was the word ‘fuck’ and were both plumbing related. The third time was to yell “fire extinguisher” when he set the propane tank on fire.
“What is the first thing you do when you find out really good news?” He asked the audience.
“You tell someone!” came the first response. I was thinking the same thing. I share it on Facebook.
Will suggested the idea that we share our news with someone else in order to release pressure in our bodies. He asked us all to breathe in through our nose. He asked if we felt the air moving through one nostril more prominently than the other.
I could feel my left nostril was mere clear than the right.
He told us that if we waited a couple of hours and tried again, we would likely find a different result. (Side note: I did try later and found my right nostril to be more clear.)
Right now, you might be wondering if I have joined the Will Duncan cult.
“She’s doing weird nostril-related breathing exercises now,” you’re thinking.
Not to worry. I am not any weirder or less sane than usual. I have simply been inspired to share these insights because they speak to where I am on my own path to an existence where I am awake and aware.
I was raised by parents who are trained and practiced in the realm of Western medicine, so when Will started explaining our Pranic bodies and the way the left and right sides of our body do different things and our work is to come into the center of our being, I am not sure I completely followed or agreed. The nose exercise was interesting, along with his thoughts on why we become irritable at certain times and fully open-hearted at others having to do with the cycle our body goes through each day. I was intrigued to learn more about Prana, which I had prior thought of as a line of clothing for stretchy pants and flowy tops.
But in all seriousness and without furthier adieu, here are Will’s 5 Lessons (Numbers 1 and 4 were especially relevant to my own recent writing and revelation):
1. Attentiveness: “Be present to the world”
2. Pressure: To relieve or not to relieve
3. Jewel Island: I think this one had to do with realizing that all human beings are precious
4. Illusion of Enemies: “We are under a state of delusion when we dislike someone”
5. Find joy in your practice: “Start small, humble, modest; if you leave the mind alone, it begins to purify itself”
The other day, I wrote about the freedom and relief one can experience in releasing pressure. Another topic related to pressure that Will spoke about was knowing when not to release pressure. Because pressure is uncomfortable, we want to get rid of it. The easiest way is often to use somebody else to relieve our own pressure. We might even create something from nothing that someone is doing to annoy us just to devise an opportunity to make ourselves feel better, albeit temporarily. So, one practice can be to build up an endurance to for this discomfort.
What to do if you are finding yourself irritated by someone else?
Act like a log (i.e. don’t react). It sound similar to my own attempts to perform energy Tai Chi. When I find my self on the defensive in response to another person, I try to avoid absorbing their energy or returning it back to them. Rather, I enision it dropping in the space between us, thus becoming null and void as it falls into the energy abyss.
I like the idea of being a log. I have already tried it, and I found it quite helpful to be a log while I felt the boil go to a simmer and eventually peter out entirely.
So, I believe the idea is to pick which pressure to release and which to endure.
With regard to the “illusion of enemies,” Will shared the analogy of how we feel when we see a puppy. Our hearts instantly open and fill with love and adoration.
“Human beings are difficult to love,” he said. “Imagine all people you are seeing are puppies. This would make it possible to have compassion for all beings.”
I am not sure I am there yet; puppies can be pretty annoying, too. I will do my best to keep this proposition in mind.
And for a final thought, I will leave you with a few more words.
“We are all on this sinking ship; we all have to lose everything we worked for our entire lives; we all have to lose everyone we love.”
We really are all in this together.