So I just wanted to post an update, i'm about a month or so from going into the monastery full time to move towards ordination. I wanted to post a little blog update I made about an experience I had during a 9 day Jhana retreat I just got home from. It was a real eye opener for me and although hasn't changed my mind, it really made me realize how nonchalantly I took the concept of leaving everything behind and gave me even more respect for monastics:
Doing a meditation retreat is never an easy thing, being alone with your mind, free of distractions and ways of escape like tv/pc can bring you to amazing places... But sometimes also to the recesses of your darkest fears and worries. You have to be brave enough to look into your mind and accept what comes.
I entered that place Friday afternoon and im still feeling the effects. I had a mind state arise in me full of doubt, fear, loss, and loneliness complete with a breakdown ive had only one other time in my life a few weeks before my wife died near 10 years ago.
Normally when you've reached a certain point in you're meditation you become detached to your mindstates and don't get taken along for a ride, this one latched on and I couldn't shake it. Its like all at once my mind hit me with every possible fear about my decision to try and become a monk, everything from as silly as not being able to see my favorite movie again and having to give up driving to feelings of leaving my family and my nephew and a good job with great benefits . Also an overwhelming feeling about being trapped and so many little things I'm use to that I'd be giving up as a monk, kind of seeing the totality of exactly what I'd be giving up. At one point i just let it all out and balled.
The next day in the midst of this mindstate, i ended up through determination having one of the most deeply concentrated and peaceful meditations i ever had.
You can never fight or try to push these mindstates out of you, only accept them, observe, and be mindful, sometimes they come so strong that its hard to do even for experienced meditators, but its how to do it in a positive manner.
Im still in the tail end of this mindstate but it showed me that i think in the past I've been too nonchalant about how hard this is going to be.... I knew it would be hard leaving behind my family and the good life i have, but i dont think i fully understand the gravity of just how hard, which makes me respect monks even more.
Its made me question my decision but it hasn't changed... Im going to give this a shot, because i know if i dont ill always regret it. If it doesn't work out i come back and move forward, if it does ill live a life few dare to try.
It's funny how for 7 days I lived in so much peace, I felt happy and looking forward to my residency, enjoying the Jhana retreat, Bhavana felt peaceful as always.. then with this mindstate I felt trapped and extremely lonley, the air felt dense, I had trouble breathing and even got to really what was a mini panic attack, i was able to observe how my frantic mindstate controlled my breathing. At one point I had the thought to get in my car and drive the five hours home, this was about 9pm... I was dieing for some sort of distraction for my mind, radio, music, videos whatever, some form of escape. I could of went 100 yards to my car and turned on my phone, but I was bolstered by remembering stories of monks like Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Chah and I just stayed with the mindstate, it was a brutal experience that I'm still kind of feeling now, but I think it needed to happen.
I spoke to one of the other monastics there, he has been at Bhavana for 2 years and was just fully ordained back in May. He seemed to confirm that he went through something pretty similar. I spoke to another who stated that this will not be the first time I go through such an experience on my path if I tred it all the way, and that even Bhante G went through periods of crippling self doubt and fear. If any current monastics on the board would like to weigh in it would be appreciated as well.