So I spent my Memorial Day weekend at a meditation/martial arts retreat at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center. The mountain has a harsh, spiky feel to it, as you'd expect from a desert mountain, with fields of sharp, painful-looking rocks housing rattlesnakes and scorpions alongside the lizards and squirrels. I had a good time, though for me, things like this aren't really about the classes I go to. I learn stuff, but rarely anything earth-shattering. Instead what's important for me is that I am doing my practice--aikido--in a different context, away from my regular routine. Much like many people describe psychedelic drugs, this doesn't change me directly, but opens up space for me to think and feel in different directions than I would normally. It removes the typical stimuli and patterns of my life--the gadgets I use, the work I do, the music I listen to and the TV I watch--and gives me something I need to do, something I need to adapt to, and the entity that needs to do the adapting is just me, without assistance. Does that make any sense? On one of the two mornings I woke up with insomnia and went to meditation and chanting at 5am, I had woken up with a really powerful dream that took me a few hours to process and get mostly settled with. In my everyday life, I don't know if I would have had the emotional space for that dream to come up, or the time or mindspace to help think it through.
Lacking distractions, I could see what I was feeling a bit more quickly, which let me make some different choices. I found some patterns I can be aware of and break. I started feeling a desire to be liked and included in groups, and when that felt crappy, I remembered that that always feels crappy, and what feels good is to do whatever I feel like doing, and if that intersects with a group, that's great. The million different threads in me came just a bit closer together.
(Someday the threads will all come together and I'll be a whole person. It's not like I was a whole person once and got broken: I was born in pieces. The work of my life is to put myself back together.)
Now I'm back, and I get to keep what I've learned.