So, then ---
Khyentse Rinpoche did it best with his note from "someone pretending to do retreat." I am left with this note from someone threatening to do retreat.
Very shortly -- it is down to a couple of days -- I will be traveling some interminable distance to an always-waiting retreat place, and promptly on the 14th, will disappear for three months. My retreat advisor is very easy, and liberal. Only three months? He even said I could break it up, a month here, a month there.
He apparently resisted the impulse to counsel forty-nine days, but did offer this cheerful, parting comment, "Remember Padmasambhava!"
Nothing quite so wonderfully concentrates the mind as imminent hanging.
Carried away by the smoke of many rituals and the sound of many drums, we dream the interrupting dream of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Of course, none of this is guaranteed. Life is very, very fragile. Dreams are fragile. This collective agreement we seem to have in here and now is more fragile still. If you have ever spent any time at all in wars, you know you can catch it in the blink of an eye.
One of these days you'll be all alone
Way out yonder in the combat zone
Bullets flyin' around your head
Drop down quick or you'll be dead
Maybe this notion of retreat is like a wisp-o-the-hills, just out of reach. Maybe it is the end of the rainbow. This coming and going, punctuated by bells and lit by butterlamps: offerings and dances, morning and night. Maybe the real retreat is the one from which we are never separate; as real as the prayer we don't have to utter -- a continuity in which we are always at liberty to participate, but which does not demand participation -- because there is nothing to leave or join.
Going away to the mountain, or the desert, or the forest is a persistent theme in the mind of man. We look at it as a freedom. We sit in town, thinking of the cave, yet know there are those who sit in the cave thinking of the town.
The best retreat I ever did was one morning, when I sat at the breakfast table, and looked out the window.
Everything is perfect.
That retreat lasted about two years. Where I was or what I was doing didn't matter. Everywhere I looked, the scenery was flexible. You could stick your finger into it, just like a soap bubble. I kept seeing glimpses of Tenpa, and I even called out to him once or twice, until after a time, he faded away.
You would think that two years is long enough to stabilize your view, but it isn't.
View and conduct are two fractious horses yanking a cart in different directions. It takes a whole lot of handling to get them working in tandem. You have to let them inform each other. Refractory or not, it takes sensitive hands, and we all know how hands get sensitive. Hands get sensitive through experience.
That experience cannot be forced. It has to be natural.
So, maybe retreat is deliberately having the same experience over and over, for some arbitrary length of time? Well, lets see how that might work. We've been dying, over and over, and that usually takes about the same length of time, i.e. the time it takes for our breath to escape four hand widths away. Can we remember what that feels like? Can we get our living and dying synchronized long enough to avoid attachment either way? Can we hokey up some kung fu solution: repeatedly smacking the air with our mortal distance?
So, anyway --
All this pixel-killing conjecture isn't doing anybody any good, when we stand in ever-present danger of believing this bullshit is real.
You can do what you like. I am just going to ride on a little ways, whether it is west out of Chengdu or somewhere north of Santa Fe, and however long it takes is how long it takes.
For the next three months, if I catch a glimpse of Tenpa, I will not call out to him. There is not a whole lot left that I want to say. I figure it is enough to take off the worn-out gloves and learn from those horses, in that place just over the next rise, and the one after that, where the blue river is clear, and those horses are always dancing.