Deborah J. Haynes

Post-Retreat Reflections

About two months ago, I finished my yearly winter retreat. This year I spent 101 days, eight hours per day in my studio, mostly doing a meditation practice focused on Tara — the most esteemed female personage in Tibetan Buddhism. I wrote the word “personage,” but I could have said “deity” or “archetype.” I have done many practices during the past years, but I feel that I have come home with this one . . . it’s something I can imagine doing for the rest of my life. The seed syllable TAM is associated with the emergence of Tara from a rainbow.

Cultivaing a state of equanimity about expectations and trying to be present with what is. There were many themes during this retreat, but generating compassion and devotion were two of the most central. The invasion of Ukraine happened midway during my retreat, and, as I wrote in an earlier blog post, I worked hard to generate compassion for all concerned in the great suffering there, and of course, in other regions of the world where conflict is rife — including this country. I felt great devotion to the practice itself, to the Buddhist lineage in which I practice, and to my own awakening. I also worked with many complex visualizations each day — training my mind in concentration and clarity.

During this period my husband has continued to decline, losing more and more strength and balance, and he has been silent a lot, spending time in memory or blankness, often sleeping up to 20 hours per day. Occasionally, such as two days last week, he was energetic and vividly present, but that remains rare. Mainly, I am working with my equanimity and patience — trying to release my preferences about how things should be, and instead being present with what is. I ended this retreat by creating a snow angel in a nearby park.

More recently, I have begun reading Stephen Levine’s book One Year to Live for the second time. It is a timely reminder to ask what I really want and need to do with my life, and right now is helping me navigate the tension between David’s care needs and my activity. I have also been reading to him from Advice on Dying by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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