”But even slight distinctions made set earth and heaven far apart” – Affirming Faith in Mind, Hsing Hsing Ming

A few days ago I got home from yet another Sesshin, an intense meditation retreat. During a Sesshin, life is simple – choices and distractions are limited and you follow a strict schedule. At the same time, that can be very difficult: you cannot hide from what you are really up to, all feelings, thoughts, stories, fantasies, and judgments are obviously and sometimes painfully there. You are not alone though. Both physically, as there are other practitioners there, and in the sense that you simply cannot be alone – we are all one – al(l)one (although we can feel lonely). What you are going through is a unique expression of you and your journey, yet at the same time it is not unique – we all go through a version of it. Our suffering affects the world and those around us, therefore my suffering is yours and your suffering is mine. 

Coming back home again from Sesshin can sometimes feel a bit confusing. There is no strict schedule (not 24/7 anyway) and distractions and choices are even more endless – it is easy to feel a bit lost and overwhelmed. Yes, the scenery is different, but really, it is the same to be in everyday life and in Sesshin. There is no place but right this moment where everything is exactly as it is and where we get a chance to unlearn our delusions. The feeling of unease comes from the stories we tell ourselves that things are not as they are supposed to be. With that said, you don’t need to like it, nevertheless, things are as they are. 

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