Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Change of Heart

(Back from two and a half week retreat with Ruth Denison, at Dhamma Dena Desert Vipassana Center, I am devoting the next few weeks to sharing Ruth's wonderful teachings.)

Bringing the Shadow to Light, with Ruth.

Often with Ruth, we would chant:

I am opening up in deep surrender to the Buddha Dharma in my life.
I am opening up in deep surrender, to the numinous darkness of my shadow.
I am opening up in deep surrender, to the powerful wholeness within myself.

And opening up, to the numinous darkness of my shadow, I certainly did.

I came in angry and complaining about people, and circumstances in my life. The first evening, after I told my story, Ruth set me straight, and asked me to look within myself first. "Awaken to that which is hindering you, and is imprisoning you from your most inner self." And she shared about her own life, and the choices she had made. She talked about her sometimes difficult husband, and how she would respond to him from a place of love. She told us how surprised she had been by the amount of anger often present in women, here in America, particularly toward men. I went to bed, and was met by shadowy figures in the night. 

Woman's Shadow in the Mojave Desert

I dreamt of a woman in her bathrobe, opening the door to a kind man who had come to meet her. She embraced him reluctantly, apologizing for not being properly dressed to receive him. She offered to feed him breakfast but could not find enough food in the fridge to fix him a good breakfast . . . The first in a series of dreams, all on the same theme. Women not ready to meet friendly men willing to love them.     During the ensuing days, I watched as the hindrances came and went, relentlessly. Hindrances, shadow. Same thing. Only, the shadows in my dreams were telling a story that tied together the bursts of anger, and anxiety, and the episodes of  diffuse wanting. Being with myself for a long retreat made it obvious. I needed a change of attitude. 

In my journal, I wrote, 'Inner transformation needs to take place before I can truly honor and nurture masculine part within myself, and also outside. Dhamma Dena is a great place to do that. Coming home to myself.'  As time went on, I could feel the purification taking place inside, physically, emotionally. The anger, the fear, being burnt away by sustained attention, the wise understanding of their irrelevance, and the willingness to slowly open my heart to love. There was nothing to do but endure the unpleasantness with great patience and acceptance of the process, of myself.  Ruth was showing me the way. I knew she had been there and in her I could trust. 

I left the retreat a changed person. Anger, resentments, complaints, projections, helplessness, defensiveness, distrust, fear . . . all gone, burnt away. In their place, love, trust, and openness have taken permanent residence. It's been two weeks now since I came back, and the joy is still there. Some rather wondrous events have taken place in my outer life as well, and I am still in awe of the gift that was bestowed upon me. 

Do you have similar stories to tell of inner transformation? How has your mindfulness practice changed you? I would love to hear. 


  1. Dear Marguerite
    You are harvesting Wisdom for all of that all of us fellow travellers (Sangha)are more nourished in our faith and practice.

  2. Thank you Norman. You are right, I am harvesting all the wisdom I got during those two and a half weeks with Ruth. And I feel a responsibility to share it.

    I hope you are well.

    with metta


  3. "rather wondrous events have taken place in my outer life as well, and I am still in awe.."

    So beautiful, dear Marguerite,

    I want to point out that the path is so personal in a way in my opinion and it all can so easily be misunderstood. Yet we may risk and live with that, yes, I think so. And I have a need to talk about it, no doubt, and best in an open and non-judgemental athomsphere that I am very glad to have found with some friends. Step by step..In my experience life, or whatever you call it, wholeness, the one, the divine within and without.. talks to me using symbols which are appropriate to me but not to everyone. General - I think is just the fact that this communion, communication happens when one opens up and surrenders.

    I feel it healing and so helpful to be heard by one who listens wholeheartedly, non-judgemental and with benevolence.

    Thank you, Marguerite for being & sharing the way you do.

  4. Yes, Doris, the symbols, the day-to-day assemblage of hindrances, the way the body responds, are uniquely personal. And as you know also, the process though, our struggle with self-imposed, unnecessary suffering, the presence of hindrances, and of healing symbols, the way to open up to our potential wholeness, tie us all, in their universality. The Buddha's map is rather clear that way, and so are the teachings of dream masters such as C.G. Jung. The sometimes missing ingredient is the right understanding and implementation of those teachings. This is where I find teachers like Ruth such a blessing. I can only go so far on my own :)

  5. Beautiful Marguerite

    Moments of tranformation have been numerous, and many more are yet to come.

    From Today:

    I have been keeping mindful in daily activities and observing non-self that is so visible through fears, judgements etc.

    Awareness brings transformation, freedom from personalities...seems like we live with many contratictory notions, equaninous awareness to mindstates and associated bodily sensations helps mind to know without being carried away in these currents of different personalities or opinions of self that we carry. Thoughts that seemed so real, become impersonal. One can catch one's own mind 'lying' to us-inner transformation ensues.

    Transformation, mine is happenning each moment, more profoundly than I ever experienced before. SOme context would come up and kind of shed light how far I hv gone, if I look back. I indeed make mistakes all the time, expensive mistakes (job, money) but learn from each one of them. Keeping the energy just 'right', objectivity just right.

    Letting go of personalities and perceptions... I didnt expect worldy outcomes from this but letting go of perceptions of self making everyday life easier!

  6. Ruth said, "the mind is dumb", meaning the mind produces a lot of idiotic thoughts, mostly connected to illusion of rigid self. Gil Fronsdal's recent teachings on the not-self - of which I spoke about in several posts - has been tremendously helpful in that respect. That knowledge of the dangers of the 'thoughting' mind, coupled with the will of sustained mindfulness, have been incredibly transformative for me. One learns to discern and disengage from ill-producing thoughts that constantly arise, at a very deep level. Kind of like a constant sweeping of the mind.