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Month: April 2022

What did I learn from a meditation retreat Part 1

I just finished a silent meditation retreat that lasted for 6 days with all women meditators, and here are 5 things I have learned:

1. 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys are all okay when they are held in loving awareness.

I thought retreat would be a period of rest and rejuvenation, it was, but it was also a reminder of 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys in our life. Within 7 days, I went through dealing with allergies for the first time in my life, fatigue due to allergy, and a laptop broke down. Last but not least, during a yin yoga session with Anne Cushman, the magic of holding a meditative pose and breathing in silence broke my intense emotion of homesickness loose. The homesickness was not something I was expecting to deal with nor I was planning to deal with it. Tears came, and I was quietly yet intensely sobbing while holding the yin yoga pose, with my leg slightly elevated higher than my body. Anne kindly reminded all of us to extend compassion to people who are feeling just like we do, and that compassionate thought helped my emotion to land in the loving awareness of the entire sangha.

Every day during the check-in, we reflected on moments of pure bliss, moments of cannot connect to the practice at all, and so many aha moments as if we truly heard the teaching for the first time. I noticed that my inner state fluctuated a lot and so are other people’s inner states. During the same day, we can move through peace, doubt, restlessness, anger, grief, love, loneliness, and connection.

All of the 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys are witnessed and held in the loving awareness of the community and then we realized that everything is truly okay. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with our lives. Life contains suffering and joy. The moments of realization during the retreat help me to build that realization muscle outside of the retreat.

I thought retreat would be a period of rest and rejuvenation, it was, but it was also a reminder of ten thousand sorrow and ten thousand joy. Within 7 days, I went through dealing with allergies for the first time in my life, fatigue due to allergy, and a lap

2. Joy truly is magical + Sometimes you do not need to figure out why you are feeling a certain way, just hangout in the space/state you would rather be in

My intense homesickness morphed into two nightmares that night: one about my visa in the U.S, one about I have gone back home and cannot fly out again (yeah I know a special kind of nightmare combo for diasporas). Needless to say, when I woke up, I was tired, unhinged, and not ready to move on to the new topic of the day, joy. I complained in my head: just give me 45 more minutes until I do a serious tonglen practice, to transmute all the pain and suffering into light, then I might be ready to move on to joy. However, that was not the schedule so there I was sitting there and was skeptical/indifferenct about joy. Until we were in the breakout room, I heard about what brought other people joy, small and big things in their life as well as our relationship to joy. I started to think about the loaf of sourdough bread I baked during this retreat, my puppy Jade lying in the grass enjoying the sunshine, and the precious connections that are formed in real life on this retreat. Suddenly I felt as if there was sunlight finally reaching my heart after a cold winter, I felt lighter, warmer and better.

This moment is special for me as this is an real-life example for me of what Dawn shared ‘sometimes you don’t need to figure out why you are feeling a certain way, just hang out more in the space/state you would rather be in’. This is so against my natural way of dealing with emotions. If I feel an intense ‘negative’ emotion, I usually face it head-on, try to get to the roots of the emotion and work on this emotion somehow. However, here I was, not dealing with the homesickness somehow, but not bypassing it either, I was looking at what else was there and I saw clearly that joy was there along with the suffering in my life and in other people’s life. I leaned on joy and it was magical, contagious and it filled up my well.

3.My surprising connection to equanimity: spaciousness + rooted

If you have talked to me about equanimity before this year, I probably cannot connect to it at all. Peace, what is that, from me as a highly sensitive person with intense emotions sometimes feel like hurricanes. However, after going through a sudden family loss again at the end of last year, I realized the importance to treasure the moments of acceptance as much as possible. I felt so drawn to Anne Cushman’s teaching of equanimity this time: spaciousness like the sky and rooted like a mountain or a big tree. With the spaciousness and being rooted, we can mindfully face anything that life might bring us and yes I want that super power that spiritual warriors poses. One image I have been using to evoke the feeling of spaciousness and being rooted, is sitting down in a meditative posture on the top of a mountain overlooking the sky and trees (funny enough I do not hike seriously). One sentence/inquiry that has helped me to access equanimity is this moment is like this. It contains awareness and acceptance, as well as hope. This moment is like this, but that means the next moment may or may not look like this, and that is hope. After this moment is like this, we can gently inquire, what else is here, that usually gently encourage me to look at the okay parts of my life.

Equanimity is a huge practice when it comes to how I related to the retreat. As I mentioned before, we all went through some less than perfect retreat experiences. I was a lot more tired than I hoped, my laptop broke down and I had some of the worse nightmares. Accepting the retreat we are on, the settings we are in is the experience we are having, and practice with whatever comes up, like Anne shared whatever you think is in the way is the way.

4. Metta: center flowers as the most important things in this world, metta about creativity, some more doorways to metta

Metta, loving kindness, arguably is the most well known brahma viharas (heart qualities 四无量心). However again, metta is one quality that I have a hard time connecting to. After listening to Kate Johnson’s dharma talk, one thing that stood out to me metta is centering flowers as the most important thing in this world. Anne then taught about how metta is not about magically wishing everyone’s life has no suffering at all, but to condition our hearts, so that we can act out of love and kindness when people need more love and kindness.

The most important connection to metta for me happened during a silent sit, I suddenly realized that I need to have metta for my own creativity. I know what is good writing, what is good photography and I know my work is not here yet. Somehow I thought bashing myself, and criticizing myself is the way to get to where I want to be with my creativity, but in reality, the overly strict standard just stops me from daring to create and share my creativity with people. Do I dare to share a piece of my creativity when there might be some flowers in an overgrown yard but not all flowers? Do I dare to figure out why good art is good and try to absorb some of the nutrients in my work and have fun creating?

Dawn’s metta meditation is also impactful, having more silence in between metta phrases, add in as much as possible (for example, not wish you to be happy, but wish you be happy as possible), imagining other beings/guides sending me metta instead of trying so hard to sending metta to myself, loving even the part of me that are judgemental and not willing to love myself, all helped me to get more of a taste of metta. Dawn saying that metta practice is her primary practice for almost a decade also was revolutionary for me: oh I do not need to know every practice in this world and even one meditation practice can lead me closer to awakening.

5. Compassion: quivering heart + skillful action; just like me

Compassion, is a heart quality that is so similar to metta, that I still cannot distinguish them clearly, but hey let’s not get lost in the philosophical distinction. Compassion as Leslie Booker explained starts with a quivering heart and leads to skillful action. That quivering heart resonated with me so much. As someone in diaspora, my heart quivers for so many places constantly and skillful actions are not always available for me. It is so easy to give in to compassion’s enemy: overwhelm. For example, my parents are under a covid lockdown and we do not know how long that lock down will last. There is very little I can do across an ocean. Learning when to stop looking at the news, when to do self care, and when to take skillful action is a mindful and rich practice for me. I also need to remind myself that skillful actions to help others do not need to look like grandiose heroic actions, sometimes sharing something as ‘small’ as a flower is enough and is a great first step.

Even when our heart quiver, and when tangible actions are not available, we can still send our compassion: just like me, this person likely has suffered today, even might felt some of the same feelings I felt, I wish you peace and less suffering.

Here is just part 1 of what I learned from the retreat more related to the main teachings. There are a lot of my thoughts and aha moments that will be included in part 2.

2022 Philly 嘈杂与静谧共存


Da y 1 night South Street, Greek Food South Street Souvlaki

day 2 Barnes Foundation, Franklin Institute (不推荐,小孩子太多了), Victory Brewing Company

day 3 National Constitution Center, Betsy Ross’s Home, Philly Steak + 中国城港式三拼饭

day 4 Magical Garden

Barnes Foundation坐落在Benjamin Franklin Parkway上,是这行的亮点。我本来就比较喜欢印象派之类的作品,比起Museum of Fine Art,更好奇这个私人收藏是怎么样的。也是在波士顿的时候,常常去Isabella Gardner Museum,留下的良好印象吧。私人收藏,布置会更混搭,更沙龙化,Barnes Foundation也是这样的。






这次又额外多留意到三个非常喜欢的画家,the Prendergast brothers (有受arts & crafts movement的影响,像更朴实的folk art,有的会有金光)

Henri Rousseau (画拉丁美洲的热带雨林,像梦一般,能看到以后surrealist的一些种子)


还有一些其他的一些喜欢的画,可能会整理个pinterest board出来。

Barnes Foundation在1922年被 Albert C. Barnes 所建立起来,Albert Barnes由于发明了可以治疗婴儿眼疾的药物,而赚了很多钱。Albert 1911年开始收集艺术,基本是这些印象派画家开始画,他就同时代开始买这些画了。所以他的收藏一开始不被人们理解,唯一一次他还在世的时候的公开展览,被报纸批评嘲讽。他决定等到他去世以后,才公开收藏。

Albert对于艺术的布置是非常沙龙式的,希望人们自己去理解去这些艺术作品,所以绘画边上并没有常见的名称+简介。但现在Barnes Foundation搞了一个手机图像搜索的功能,相机扫一扫绘画,就可以出来简介。我非常不喜欢这个过程,比起墙上有简介,更加打破了在当下享受艺术的感觉。他也会选择中西混搭,把艺术品和以前的日常家具放在一起。

Albert在世的时候,还会给自己工厂的员工(大部分是非裔美国人),每天两个小时的时候一起学习讨论哲学,教育和艺术。他很早也开始收藏原住民的一些绘画和手作品,还参与过原住民的prayer dance。一个小彩蛋:艺术馆工作人员看我拍地面的有趣图案,给我介绍这个图案源自原住民的Spirit of Truth Rug。原住民酋长的儿子负责编制这个地毯,谁站在上面就需要说真话。


接下来让我们介绍亮点二,Magical Garden,是艺术家Issiah Zagar为了与自己的抑郁症作斗争而开始做的艺术品。Magical Garden坐落于,Philly的嬉皮中心,South Street。上世纪50年代,费城计划了一条穿过城市的高速公路,要从South Street这里过。于是这里的房价大跌,艺术家们搬到这里来,这里变成了亚文化和嬉皮中心。Magical Garden可谓是,嬉皮的具象化,用废弃的艺术品或者日常的废品,组合起来变成了Art Environment,极具想象力,创造力和生命力的小院落。一眼望去非常震感人心,仔细看又有很多有趣的小细节,里面的路线设计也几乎是移步换景了。



这个艺术品的完成,不仅仅用的是这个艺术家的生命力和创造力,他也需要跟当地的志愿者一起合作来完成这个装置。他还常常飞到墨西哥,跟当地的folk艺术家合作。有一个展示厅的小角落,全是墨西哥folk art。我有一瞬间特别的感动,想到初中时候读的三毛写的墨西哥博物馆里生动的神像,有玉米神有自杀神。这种冥冥之中的指引,小时候觉得好奇的在意的点,使我最终跨越了一个海洋,跟三毛一样看到了这些神像。我在这个角落,默默地对她说了一句感谢。

为什么这个墨西哥folk art这么像关公!

参观Magical Garden也让我看到了工作日白天的South Street,跟周末晚上的South Street完全不一样。第一天晚上的South Street,好像碰上了什么摩托车队的活动,引擎声音和公放音乐声音不断。到处都是穿着黑色皮背心的车队人员,跟我之前看的设定在费城的Daphne’s Dive里的一个也是摩托车队成员的角色,打扮一模一样。还很巧碰到了Epik Hig巡演到费城,街上排了长长地队。队伍对面就是性用品店,披萨店,嬉皮饰品店。而白天的South Street,让我感到更多gentrification的气息,毕竟都有Whole Foods了。

一般推荐的:National Constitution Center, Betsy Ross House。


National Constituition Center的live show舞台是圆形的,观众环绕舞台。presentation和现场演讲穿插得刚好。但是好笑的是taxation without representation is tyranny,这不就是拿签证和绿卡的我们的现状。还有一个讲女性选举权的展览很棒,包含了当时的造型艺术,标语艺术,宣传歌曲,图像设计等等。

Betsy Ross是绣了美国国旗的一位女性,是十八十九世纪的女性创业者了。她给一些政界人士社会名流,做床上用品这些织物。后来还一直绣了,很多国旗军旗养家。她家房子外面,小院子里有好看的玉兰树。


Victory Brewing Compay,食物一般,喜欢比较强啤酒(Belgian Triple)的人可以去。

South Street Souvlaki,moussaka一层土豆一层茄子一层肉加白酱不可能不好吃呀,Soutzakakia希腊肉丸子有特殊的香料我吃不出来,鱿鱼嫩且入味加沙拉上有好吃的油醋汁。

随便挑了一家中国城里的餐馆M Kee,点了烧鸭烧鸡和叉烧的三拼饭,和艇仔粥。艇仔粥还不错,三拼饭的米饭一般,但是三拼还不错。


费城是嘈杂与静谧并存的地方,我可能永远会喜欢South Street的迸发式的生命力和创造力,和Benjamin Franklin Parkway一直到市政府中心上风格迥异的建筑。

如果娜拉们出走到所有的宇宙 -Everything everywhere all at once观后感


在这个电影里的中年娜拉Eveline和年轻的娜拉Joy都出走了,去到了所有的宇宙。joy的depth of pain, depth of longing. She cares so much for making something out of her self, of wanting that hug, to the point she decided it is better to say nothing matters, then at least she wont get hurt。Isn’t that just a mirror version of her mom.

从不理解身边的人,神经系统一直在fight or flight。到最后,依然是平常的生活,但是充满了爱与连接,充满了爱的小的gesture,joy陪爸妈来irs,eveline替丈夫拿包还亲了他,这是从fight or flight 到ventral connection的转变。


这个转变中间经历了到为了救女儿,想要去女儿的世界。变成她就可以救她(接受和理解)。但变成女儿之后,并不能跳出这个问题存在的conciousness level,来解决问题。

突破点在丈夫受了很多伤害以后,在某一个宇宙(丈夫和妻子有最少连接的宇宙里)解释了自己:I look to the brighter side of things, that is how I flight。在当下的宇宙里,丈夫said, we are all fighting because we are scared and confused, I am confused all the time, but one thing I know is that we need to be kind, no more fighting。这就是在看遍了所有的宇宙的awareness,之上加上了loving kindness,that is mindfulness。

在平凡又忙碌的生活中,the husband still chooses small things matter, the googly eyes on things, singing while cleaning up messes, bringing cookies to the tax people.

small things matter, choose to see the brighter side of things, be kind matters, and that is 开悟,那一刻是妻子把googly eye贴到第三眼的时间点

妻子Eveline理解了丈夫会说的, 跟自己的行为融汇贯通。She still continued fighting, but she is fighting in a different way, helping people to find their joys。

接下来这个短暂但是非常情感充沛,迂回真的非常有趣,Eveline想要救女儿Joy;女儿Joy对妈妈Eveline说了她的内心话,妈妈Eveline决定好,听女儿的let her go;到妈妈对于自己内心的坦诚,还是决定要救女儿Joy。

这个过程中还有一个重要角色公公,Eveline的爸爸。作为一个长辈权威和父权社会的缩影,他解决问题的办法,是杀之以防后患,对于外孙女和女儿都是这样。妈妈Eveline想要救女儿Joy,公公一直在派人阻拦,最后自己亲自上阵,机器人手臂禁锢住女儿(这不就是父权社会浓缩成one frame)。Eveline解释了,我不会像你一样,随便不认可自己的女儿。公公理解了,放手了,让女儿Eveline去做自己想做的事情,去救她的女儿。


最后妈妈Eveline决定忠于自己的内心,说出自己的内心话, 要救女儿Joy,丈夫和公公都在后面帮忙。it is okay that we are a mess but I want to be here, I choose to be here even though we can be anywhere. Even it is specks of time, I will cherish the few specks of time。父母对于子女的爱,或许也不一定是要放手,但是有选择过放手,接受放手的前提在,再来坦诚内心,互相连接。


(再来重复一遍开头说的)到最后,娜拉们出走了,但又选择了回来,但是回来的已经不是那个出走的娜拉,而是充满了爱与连接的娜拉。依然是平常的生活,平常的生活却不再禁锢她们,但是充满了爱与连接,是小的gesture,joy陪爸妈来irs,eveline替丈夫拿包还亲了他,这是从fight or flight 到ventral connection的转变。这其实也是我最近最有感触的一点,很多时候不一定是生活要发生什么大的改变,才能变得更幸福。How do we live our life, what never system are we operating,怎么样度过自己的生活,什么神经系统在被使用可能对于我们的幸福与否有更大的影响。同样是去超市买菜,可以是这是个烦人的任务可快结束吧,或者拖延不去,还是去超市了且享受,去看看超市里有没有新鲜没尝试过的水果,跟收银员认真打个招呼,享受今日的阳光。说到ventral connection,给大家推荐一个播客.

我非常喜欢这个电影,不仅仅是因为天马行空的设定,令人捧腹的笑点,仿佛香港电影的打斗场面。非常个人geeky的喜欢的点,关于nerve system switching在生活中看上去是什么样,switch到ventral connection是什么样的生活。我还非常非常喜欢Joy的设定,有暗黑想要摧毁一切,有艺术感有创造力,有性,有不懈,有打破传统的世界的魄力,有longing,有号召力。这是一个真实丰富,在看似颓废和不在意的表面之下,有如同火山爆发一般的生命里的角色。I dont even want to say this is one of the best Asain characters I have seen, this might be one the best female characters I have seen. 更重要的是电影中情感的部分,for once a Western movie did not gloss over the depth of pain and longing in Asian families。对于很多人来说,原谅和重新连接,不上迪斯尼里讲的那么简单的,你看Evelilne要走过所有的宇宙才能达到这个重新连接的点。

Additional thoughts:

  1. The mother, father and daughter represents greed, delusion, and aversion type
  2. what if the multiverse is really reincarnation

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