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Unfettering the Natural Mind: The Path to Seeing Clearly

30 Jun 2018 7:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

With gratitude to FCM member Diana Fish for this sharing about the June 2018 FCM retreat at Southern Dharma Retreat Center, north of Asheville, NC

From the time I joined FCM five years ago, I looked forward to having an opportunity to attend the Southern Dharma retreat in NC led by our teacher. After hearing sangha members talk about it each year, it seemed to have an almost mythical significance - not to be compared to any other retreat. Why? Apparently the synchronous fireflies, the lush landscape, cool nights, and mountain views were part of it, but mainly as a backdrop for the deep teachings that went on every summer around the beginning of June. Still, it was difficult for me to justify being gone for a full seven-day retreat so soon after school let out for my son.

This year I decided to take the plunge. It was exactly what I’d heard it would be, and more. The opportunity to practice with many sangha members from our community in such a magical setting, where fireflies illuminate simultaneously after a warm-up of individual flickers, gradually coming together in a beautiful display of inter-connection. Walking up the hill after the last meditation of the evening, seeing this synchronicity amongst insects while birds sang their last songs of night, everything just made sense. Like our walking meditation, which felt like a flowing stream on the covered balcony of the meditation hall, the week flowed with meditation and deep wisdom teachings. On the second evening of retreat, sheets of rain poured down like the cascading waterfalls in the woods. The sound was almost deafening, so we meditated on the rain. As Fred told us, the rain is falling, but there is No One who is listening.

For the first several days, we contemplated Traleg Rinpoche’s writings on the Buddhas’s teachings on the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to the Dharma and Mipham Rinpoche’s The Wheel of Analysis and Meditation That Thoroughly Purifies Mental Activity.  We gradually peeled away the layers of projections, created in our minds, which cloud our perception and keep us in a fog of delusion. We were being skillfully led out of this fog.  Why were we in a fog of delusion? Grasping and clinging to things that are impermanent, attachments, samsara, and our inability to understand and recognize karmic cause and effect. These teachings were the backdrop for the main text of retreat, The Flight of the Garuda, by Lama Shabkar, written in 1891.

The foundational shift for me came during the fourth evening’s dharma talk. I had been carefully following Fred’s teaching on recognizing our thoughts as thoughts, not as reality, but as mental projections on our interpretation of reality. Suddenly, I could feel Shabkar’s instructions in my bones:

“This so-called “mind” thinks, and knows this and that,

And moves to and fro’.

If you pursue it, it isn’t caught, but vanishes as elusive as mist… “

By seeing clearly, without a veil of habitual preference, suddenly everything was vivid and focused. It was a choice. It was as easy as turning on a light switch, or as fireflies illuminating.

 “Observed, it is primordially empty; there is nothing there to grasp.”

Looking directly at a thought, examining it closely, the thought simply vanished.  It didn’t require careful examination anymore, or carefully choosing an “antidote” to an aversive emotional state. Suddenly, I could clearly see a path which flowed as naturally as the cascading waterfalls along the mountains. I could see the vast potential for unfettering my natural mind.

The pure joy of retreat is an opportunity I hope everyone will have. It’s a gift we give ourselves. Away from our usual lives, we allow the teachings to be absorbed deeply, alongside our sangha family of serious students of the dharma. We let go of our habit energies and open to a whole new realm of possibility.


  • 02 Jul 2018 5:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Dear Diana,
    Thank you and so well said. You brought the experience to life in a way that could be shared. Thank you.
    Link  •  Reply
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