I’m reading, “Milarepa: Lessons from the Life & Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi” by Chogyam Trungpa, and Edited by Judith L. Lief. I’m really enjoying it.
Yesterday I read passages that brought me comfort:
“…one’s first meeting with aloneness is a meeting with one’s real ego, without any clothing…The feeling of loneliness is that the ego has no one to comfort it, no one to act as moral support.
One of the differences between this stage and earlier stages is that there is less aggression. There is no blame and no hatred. The aloneness is simply the feeling of being nowhere, not even lost. Obviously, there is tremendous sadness that there is nothing around you that you can hang on to. But it is your own ego acting as the voice of that sadness and loneliness. You cannot blame it on anybody or get angry. There is no point of reference, no source of communication.
…taking part in a retreat is a way to express that aloneness, that loneliness, that desolate quality…Cooking, sleeping, or walking might become a source of entertainment. There is little to do, so you are thankful that they provide something. But even that comes back to square one.
Eventually, you tend to get somewhat disillusioned with all that. You see that those retreat experiences are not exactly feelings of wretchedness, but there is a very faint and subtle feeling that you are falling in love with something. At the beginning of retreat you were irritated by the insects around you, but you begin to wish you could invite them for a party or for dinner. You begin to feel appreciation. A subtle romanticism is happening, completely due to the experience of there being nothing to entertain yourself with, so that everything comes back to you.
The songs of Milarepa at the early stage of his being in retreat are love songs. He praises the vicinity, the mountains, and his cave. He praises his desolateness, his solitude, and the memory of his guru. Likewise, in retreat, you begin to find that the sadness and desolateness feel romantic. You feel that there is something to latch on to, somewhat, but if you go too far it disappears. It is a very subtle love affair, but it is definitely romantic. You not only fall in love with the environment and your aloneness, but you also feel that your guru had a lot to do with it. You begin to appreciate the guru as a parent. You see the guru as a genius matchmaker, the one who married you and this desolate place. And at this point, recognizing the value of the guru becomes seeing that you also are a precious one.
So we could say that your sadness provokes romanticism: spiritual romanticism. Although such sadness may be materialistic, fundamentally it is spiritual or even, if we could be brave enough to say such a thing, mystical. There is a tone of a mystical experience. Your sadness brings up tremendous artistic talent in you. Milarepa composed songs, and he began to see the colors and sights happening around him becoming very real. The way the sun was shining, the way the moon set, the way the clouds were moving, the wind blowing, the sounds of owls hooting at night, the mosquitoes landing on him all became extremely real. Everything he saw became completely and totally an expression of a gigantic world of romanticism, colorful and fantastic.
We could say that the whole notion of being in retreat is unreal, an expression of your being a spaced-out nut or tripping out. But retreat practice has validity. You cannot regard retreat as unpleasant or just as a sidetrack on the path. Being in retreat is very valuable, because you have not seen your ego being alone for a long time—in fact, never. In retreat, for the first time you begin to see that your ego is naked. You are not exactly without ego: there is ego, but that ego is a naked one, and you begin to explore the world around it. So going into retreat introduces you to ego’s nakedness and to a subtle appreciation of aloneness or loneliness. When you are in retreat, and free from any kind of security, even from your guru, you have to pull up your own resources constantly.”