My Experience at Empty Cloud - Learning Non-attachment to Knowledge
by FCM Member Coralee Hicks
Members of FCM have the extraordinary opportunity to experience a solitary retreat at beautiful Empty Cloud Cottage, a truly sacred, tranquil space in which to meditate and study at a deeper level under the skillful guidance of our teacher Fred. We thank FCM member Coralee Hicks for sharing her recent experience of solitary retreat at Empty Cloud Cottage.
A private retreat differs from a group meditative setting. In a solo retreat student and teacher set the meditation schedule and choose the focus of the practice. Since solo practitioners have to rely on their own inspiration and self-discipline to practice, there is more opportunity for touching deeper reservoirs within themselves, strengths and abilities that they might have doubted lay within
I was very eager and a bit nervous when I arrived on Wednesday. Retreats have been an important part of my spiritual growth. My hearing disability makes group retreats difficult. Now I was in an environment that allowed me to hear Fred's instructions. I had planned to study the Diamond Sutra. I thought: one of the early sutras, why not begin at the the beginning. The actual beginning for me was very unexpected. I also brought two issues that were thorns in my psyche. I hoped to get some relief from them.
On the first night Fred asked me a series of questions. When I finally was able to say "I don't know" he laughed. This not knowing is an uncomfortable place for me. I believe(d) that knowledge was power. I have spent my professional life working in the area of information transmission. As Fred left me that evening one of the last things he said was "It is not about learning".
Oh. If not about that.. then what is it about?
So I sat, and I thought. And I sat and thought.. and then realized that some questions (like what is the final digit of Pi) don't have answers. I shared this insight the next day. I also realized that I was not ready to understand the Diamond Sutra. My expectation of a Professor/Student relationship was wrong. Perhaps not having expectations might be better? Fred then asked what is a thought? I don't know? I thought I knew... I wished I knew. I don't know. Thinking gets in the way of meditating... I am addicted to thinking?? Ouch.
On the final day Fred suggested I relax. So I took a few naps. I wrapped myself in my blanket and pretended I was wrapping my self in the love of the Sangha. I sat and watched the wind move through the trees. I watched the light and shadows move across the image of the Buddha in my room.
I realized the two thorny issues were now resolved. When I meditated I told my thoughts to keep Noble Silence. My thoughts laughed at me. I pictured my thoughts as bees and told them to go back to the hive (buzz off).
The closure session with Fred was comforting. It is okay to stop. It is okay to be human. It is okay to be Coralee.