Most of the inquiries I get are about energetic problems people are having. Sometimes it shows up as headaches or anxiousness or energetic sensitivity or breathing problems. Or it can present as stomach issues, shaking, abrupt temperature changes in the body, insomnia, or a deep need to discover the meaning of life.
The main thing I suggest is for people like this is to take a significant amount of time and investigate what is really happening internally for them. Normally we can’t feel what is actually happening inside of us. We feel something vague. Or we feel internal confusion. We are turned inside out. So the reason we go to a retreat is to figure out how to feel ourselves. If we can go to a week long retreat or 10 day retreat, even a few day retreat, that can be a wonderful place to start. We all have a flavor or style of practice that turns us on, and some that really turn us off. Some people might love a vipassana retreat. Others an ashram. Some, like me, craved the challenge of Zen. It is important to check a few out. Usually one will feel right.
The reason we undertake this concentrated time in a retreat is to be able to look at our internal process. It is not necessary to be religious or holy. Nor to suffer and be purified in that suffering. We do a retreat because it gives us an opportunity to give ourselves completely to this internal awareness, which is a rare opportunity. We may have never actually had the opportunity to look inward. Usually our awareness is outward. At the computer, movies, the news, other people, our past, our future… But in a retreat we begin to turn our attention one hundred eighty degrees, and look inward. It is like finding a hidden gear within us which we never knew we had.
In a retreat, often our meals are taken care of, we wear simple clothing, the day is full sitting with a group. There is a great deal of structure involved in the retreat, which, as frustrating as that may be to give up our control for a week, gives us an opportunity to suspend those other responsibilities for a while. In our daily lives, generally we have so much going on, that the various stimulation makes it difficult to even experience what is actually happening internally. It is like being in a rock concert and trying to study. In a retreat, in sitting, our stimulation is boiled down to just our body and mind in a simple body posture. We simplify the stimulation.
This simplification forces us to see all of the ways we are trying to avoid looking at what we are feeling all day long, every day. All of our coping mechanisms become exhausted, as it seems like a marathon of sitting. And through this, we have to let go. In this letting go, we discover that when we give up all of our coping strategies, there is this huge internal world going on within us. We begin to turn inward, and this becomes a fascination, little by little. Little by little, looking inward becomes more interesting than our thoughts, and the thoughts lose a bit of their hook on us. Sitting becomes a laboratory to explore what is actually happening. Not just an idea alone. We can’t escape it, as we’ve committed to stay until the end of the retreat. Most of us would not sit that much on our own, so the group really helps us to do it. Often it is a feeling of competition that keeps us there at first. If the person beside me is doing this insane retreat, I can do it too. So we gradually decide, instead of just waiting it out until lunch or bedtime, we’ll try to look straight at what it is we are really feeling. We face ourselves.
Often beginning to really look at our internal world is very strange. We’ve been avoiding it for years. We drink alcohol or smoke pot or have lots of sex or eat or watch movies or exercise excessively, whatever it is we do to avoid looking at how we are feeling. When we can’t do any of those things, we finally get down to business. And sometimes our internal sensations come like a tidal wave. What happens when you’ve been sad or angry for twenty years and you finally are honest enough to feel how you feel for the first time? Shit happens! A lot happens. It can be a roller coaster at times, or a bucking bronco. It can show up as powerful emotions, physical pain, strange chaotic body pulses and sensations, kundalini, psychedelic experiences. I went through years of this.
Those people who feel they are extra sensitive to energy or internal sensation, usually they need to learn to manage their internal process. They may feel that they need to learn to close themselves down and create boundaries, but actually there are parts of their experience, blind spots, which are very closed down. So they need to become more open, not less open. The investigation of internal process gives them more to work with, so that they can navigate their internal world easier and easier, instead of being so overwhelmed.
The best part about doing retreats is that, over time, although we are in a group, we are also on our own. So little by little, retreat after retreat, as we change and find harmony physically and mentally, we’ve done it ourselves. We know it for ourselves. We can walk away with it. No one gave it to us. We’ve done the homework. Put in the time. It gives us a kind of power and confidence and grounding. It is like a miracle. People change. We might not be aware exactly how we’ve changed. We may feel like we are not so confused. Or we feel physically more harmonious. We can breathe naturally. We begin to shine in a way that others notice. We might just be happy for no reason. And it really is no reason, as our natural way of being is bright. All we have done is sat still, but somehow we’ve solved our most basic problems, answered our urgent questions about life.
So, if you are having some internal challenges, energetic issues, my best advice is to go into the laboratory of self discovery and find out for yourself. Thanks for reading! Comments welcome!