A few extra exercises - getting stronger - you can do more
A few extra steps - further down the path
A bit more experimenting with jogging
Replacing lunch with salads - 2 days so far - yum, but its a big departure from my habits
Calming the mind
Adapting and adjusting
these things really show your limitations if you come at them with too steep of an approach. I have enough experience now that I believe even to just keep up the process is a huge win - the whole world will seem to be in your way if you find the wrong posture or pace. I became a Buddhist over 20 years ago - and still in my 20s - now my 40s are running out. I hope i live long enough that i see through the illusions that mind keeps manufacturing to keep me amused.
I don't try to do too much, doing too much leaves little room for habits to be exposed and change. Busy-ness is dangerous - it opens one up to let down their own discipline, take the medicine be it physical activity, diet, meditation, study or work. Some people seem to be able to work, clean, cook but their health, their mind - they just fill it with junk, crap TV, lame tailor made news that doesn't offend their sensibilities or challenge their world view. They work damn hard but they can't make changes.
The idea of becoming a monk has been inspired by stories of the Buddha and his tradition was to go away and endure having less, wearing robes, less money and not so many choices. In a modern context and as a very technology focused person i was lucky to have a client organisation that needed my help. Eventually though we can't eat that same recipe - it becomes cardboard tasting. If you stay too short a time you don't know what you could have learned or accomplished but if you stay too long you end up trying to maintain some kind of lifestyle that goes with the flow. This can be a mistake though its the easy path.
The path of Buddha is against the flow, standing mindfully in the currents and possibly even walking up-stream without falling and being washed further downstream than you started. Its counter intuitive - its not special - there is nothing special about taking care of my health, eating salads and going for walks or learning to jog. Nothing at all except that it is medicine i need now and i have to create the conditions so i can take that medicine until it has done its job. Solo retreat and travelling require a lot of strength, health and endurance - you can't separate that from the retreat itself.
I'm going to go back to South East Asia again to the next phase of my retreat, less wandering. To stabilize my practice in a constantly changing reality and i know that the very freedom and support of that asian buddhist culture can still offer outside the cities helps me continue to stand against the flow and remain counter-intuitive. The ugly truth of the Buddha's teachings are that pleasure and comfort seeking leads to suffering - it is already suffering as you are even experiencing it. We can't become happy in any circumstance if we keep limiting our circumstances to predictable, safe and familiar environment.
Every ordinary day for anyone working can be support for retreat and the path but day-jobs are also very distracting. Some jobs are conducive and others are destructive - it depends on the person. Workplaces create new goals, set new challenges which are rarely spiritual and one forgets easily healthy goals that lead you along the path. I have no doubt that many people do manage to make it all fit and balance these things. My personality requires a lot more support and space to find my way because i want to work, meet goals ... but work never ends.
This is why the Shramanera path that the Buddha himself adopted was to rely on the charity and generosity of others because deep inside others wish that they could also attempt this way of life. Some people must continue that tradition or it will be gone. All the sponsorship during the last few months was such a great show of confidence but somehow i also have to learn to just receive it and practice hard. I traveled to search for places to do retreat and i do know a lot more but finding the perfect place or approach is a samsaric expectation - everything changes and situations go from welcome to unwelcome at different rates. I did live more simply but i also found that if one gets too simple the whole day becomes filled with struggle to maintain ones health, find food, shelter and sleep well. I know one Lama would for example during his retreat go to higher altitudes and lower altitudes with the seasons to get the right balance.
So i'm back to figuring out how and where i'll go and how i can self sponsor, what kind of budget i can deal with and adapt to. I've used Patreon because its a longer term sponsorship - but if anyone wants to sponsor me for medium or long term they could just directly pay via Paypal. I didn't use all the funds i received last year - i put some aside for this year - but it wasn't much. I tend to keep Bitcoin - and that has financially worked to my advantage and my ethics. Anyone who follows my Twitter (i'm not pushing) knows i have an alter-ego that watches banks, crypto-currency, those markets with interest hoping that if Banks fail people there is something better to replace them.
I'll continue to share, write, photograph as my way of returning what i understand along the way. I'm strongly guided by the principle that we have to work hard on the path ourselves. Its in so many texts this idea to go out on your own and chant the mantra.