Last week I went on a three day solitary retreat in a tiny A-frame cabin that sits in an Aspen grove. Its name is Parmudita, which means “boundless joy,” and also the first bumi, a big step on the path to enlightenment. Unfortunately I didn’t attain the first bumi, but I did have a joyful time, and I took a lot of photos.
Here is what the cabin looks like on the outside:
And the inside:
This is the side of the woodstove, which I didn’t use (there’s a propane tank and heating system, and I couldn’t find any dry firewood nearby, though I really wanted to have a fire).
Here are the views from the front porch. In the midground, lower left, is the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya which liberates upon seeing.
I meditated at this shrine for about six hours a day (more on the last day, because I woke up really early). When you go on retreat, you don’t bring any distractions with you, only one dharma book (Buddhist teachings) and you don’t eat much, just enough to get by. There’s no electricity or running water in the cabin, so the whole experience is pretty rugged (not sure why there is a standing lamp; I used a Coleman lantern at night). This makes it easier to focus on the nature of mind.
It’s hard to explain samantha vipasana (peaceful abiding) meditation to people who haven’t done it, but I’ll try; it’s like sitting on a cushion with your eyes open for minutes or hours, breathing in and out, and not freaking out over the wild material your mind throws down. After enough sessions, the violent thoughts, sexual fantasies, childhood traumas, grocery lists and other minutia lose their potency. What’s left is clarity, and muscle ache (some people feel it in their backs, I usually get sore in the hips); but that calm clarity is worth any kind of body ache, to me. Which is why I went on retreat and sat silently and alone for three days, drinking too much coffee and eating twice a day, just oranges and bread. And yes, I would recommend this experience to others, maybe experienced meditators rather than people new to the practice. It gives your monkey mind a good shake.
On the last day, Saturday, I hiked up towards Marpa Point, one the highest points on the land here, and took some more photos.
Then I walked around the charnel grounds, below Marpa Point (Marpa was a student of Milarepa, one of the greatest sages in Tibet). There are monuments, with people’s ashes, all around. I took a few photos, left a few offerings: