10-Day Practice Intensive Sunday, September 19through Wednesday, September 29
Practice Intensives are an opportunity to objectively and honestly reflect on how you are practicing in daily life both on and off the cushion. It is a time to refresh your aspiration and clarify places of resistance. It is a time to shine light on the barriers to living from a more open heart.
This short intensive is designed to encourage you to challenge yourself daily and commit fully to allowing practice awareness to be at the forefront. What constitutes a challenge will vary from individual to individual. If your sitting practice has been erratic, you might take this opportunity to experience consistency. If you have been hesitant about day-longs, or weekend sesshins, this is a good time to explore the possibility of deepening your practice with longer sittings.
All of us can benefit from expanding our awareness off the cushion and bringing practice into daily life experiences. Creating pauses throughout the day allows room for awareness to reveal itself even during a busy workday or upsetting interchange with those who cross our path. Anything that challenges our conditioned patterns of daily living can be helpful in exposing our tendency to cling to self-imposed limitations. Pausing for three breaths before we say yes or no to anything can allow room for fresh awareness.
Refraining from habits of escape such as: overeating, drinking alcoholic beverages, and addictive use of technology, are just three examples of ways we can abstain and make room to be present to our own experience of life more fully. Committing to thought labeling in order to expose our internal dialogue and mind mapping so that we can see the written words that we are telling ourselves; these are both valuable tools that allow us to witness our internal process of both upset and excitement. Using the phrase “feel this” for three breaths encourages us to drop into our physical experience of the moment. Instead of allowing fearful thoughts to chase us away from experiencing our life, we create an opportunity to face our fear in the moment.
Anything that helps us understand the aspects of our identity structure is beneficial practice. Being clear about how we see ourselves and others reveals the limitations we have put on our potential and theirs. If I see myself as kind and you as judgmental, I am going to be blind to my own unkindness and limit my awareness of you to the label I have given you. We may both be kind and judgmental at different moments in time. Practice allows us to be aware of the human ability to limit ourselves and also the potential we all have to expand ourselves.
The questionnaire creates a format for you to explore for yourself your conditioning, your beliefs, and your evolving process with practice over the years.
Part 1 is designed for you to consider where there may be gaps in your practice and to identify the best ways for you to challenge yourself right now. The questions are designed for you to reflect on your current practice habits and to identify your plan for intensifying your practice over the ten-day time period. Part 1 should be completed prior to our opening sitting on Sunday morning, September 19.
Two of the most common challenges in practice are Blind Spots (where we don’t even see what we don’t see) and Detours (where we hold on tightly to conditioned behaviors even though we are aware that they don’t serve us or the people around us). Teachers are especially helpful with calling out Blind Spots and Detours. Teachers also can provide helpful reminders of best practice techniques and ways of identifying potential for personal practice expansion.
For this reason, I offer myself to you for practice guidance in phone or zoom appointments. During this 10-day intensive I encourage you to connect with a teacher for one or two review sessions. The practice questions outlined here are similar to our past agreement forms, however I have added some additional questions.
While a teacher can guide you in this process and point you in the direction of awareness, the practice commitment you make is really within yourself. I encourage you to sign and date Part 1 when you complete it to emphasize your own commitment to your process. I also ask that you read this commitment to yourself every morning during practice period.
Part 2 is designed to encourage reflection on adjustments you would like to make in your patterns of practice as you move forward into the months ahead. Part 2 should be completed at the end of the 10-day intensive and for sharing at our closing sitting on Wednesday evening, September 29.