It went surprisingly quickly. Meditated from 9pm till 6am under an old tree in the woods. Spent some time practising standing and walking meditation inbetween when the prolonged sitting became uncomfortable. I cheated and took a flask of coffee with me, I am glad I did though, it felt good holding the warm coffee in my hands at times (-:
In the beginning the beautiful breeze died down and I noticed a cloud of midges on the horizon, moving closer and closer to where I sat. Then for a good hour or so I became a human buffet for midges and mosquitos. I imagined the forest ajahns who wrote about similar experiences and this spurred me on. Eventually the breeze picked up again and the insects left me alone.
The night was mostly cloudy, but there were points when the full moon came out from behind the clouds and shone down on me, illuminating the woodland around. It reminded me of a metaphor attributed to the Buddha about the undefiled mind, when it is freed from greed, hate, and delusion, being like the moon coming out from behind the clouds. A mind unharrassed by the defilements is luminous. Joy and serenity naturally arises from an unhindered mind.
At one point a mystery animal growled at me from the bushes whilst I sat in meditation. It sounded like quite a large animal. It was a bloodcurdling sort of sound. It felt like a warning. I imagined all sorts of things that it could be, perhaps a werewolf, an alien. But I laughed at such nonsense, and my logic deduced it was perhaps a stag on heat, or a mother deer protecting her young. I was completely okay with it and felt great love for the creature. I raised my hand and wished it well, told it I meant no harm. 'May you be at peace.' I said out loud in the general direction it was coming from and offered to share the merit of my meditation practise with it. The growling stopped, and I did not hear it again for the rest of the night.
By the end of the night I was starting to see things. Nothing scary. It was quite wonderful! Beautiful geometric shapes and psychedelic patterns behind closed eyelids. I was seeing what looked like ancient symbols, and what seemed like portals into other worlds, perhaps connecting with the fairy world. It was very much like what one sees when one is tripping on LSD or magic mushrooms, only I hadn't taken any of those substances. I had got there purely with a night of meditation. I learnt that I was able to tap into that part of the mind, without needing to injest any psychedelic substances.
At the end of the night, I noticed a dead mouse had been carefully laid out near where I sat, almost like a gift. It reminded me of the gifts cats leave their human friends. I wondered if perhaps it was a feral cat. I prayed over the dead mouse and dedicated my practise to it, wished it well, and for it to go on to a more fortunate rebirth.
The experience of meditating all night alone in the woods was powerful and freeing. I learnt I am okay by myself, and really enjoyed the solitude. I felt like I could have quite happily lived under that tree for the rest of my life.
I am thinking of living the homeless life again. I liked the simplicity of being free out in the open with few worries. No bills to get anxious about, none of the burdens of the household life, nor the worry of finding work, and being trapped in a job that dulls the mind and keeps one imprisoned in the delusion of self.
Perhaps one day I will live the homeless life again, and wander the UK on foot. Have a one man tent for when the weather isn't too good and some weatherproof clothing. I need to figure out a way to make some money while wandering so I can buy food and wash my clothes. The way the Buddha did it was to go on alms-round, but that was over 2500 years ago, and we do not have that culture in the West. I don't think me going on almsround would work here where I live. People would not understand or appreciate it. I will have to beg, or perhaps sell hand-painted postcards, but I do not want to spend all day sitting on a street trying to make money to eat. So there may be days I have to go without. I want to spend most of my time out in the wild meditating, peaceful and content by myself, away from the busyness of the world. Away from the story and drama of self.
I won't set myself apart from the world. I will interact with others on my daily excursions to a town, and share my understanding of dhamma with those that ask me about it. I will help any being that wants to be helped, wants to know about the spiritual life; but only those that ask, I do not wish to proselytise, I am not an evangelist, I have no desire to change anyone or judge anyone for the way they live. I am content to just let things be the way they are, without the burden of trying to fix the world's problems. I am happy to put that burden down and just be a wandering sage in the wild, and do no wrong. Be like the wind that blows where it wishes.
Was tired the next day so slept all of Saturday. Woke up feeling refreshed on Sunday. Went back to the tree and spent a blissful afternoon meditating there again. I have grown very fond of those woods.
Got an insight into how all our suffering comes from the self. Everything in the world, all of it, all our problems come from the conceit I am. It is the root of all suffering. It is not our fault really. From an early age we are conditioned to take everything personally. The whole consumer society is built around this idea of personalising things. We identify with our jobs, with our families, with our likes and dislikes, our partners, our perceptions, our thoughts and ideas, our memories.
To see that there is nothing substantial behind any of that. That this thing we call self is just process, is a liberating experience. To truly see that the things we identify with and cling to are impersonal, is happiness. One stops taking things personally then, stops taking it all so seriously. To have a self is to take things seriously. It is a huge burden we carry around. The self is stressful, with its wants, and needs. Its attachments, its craving. It never gives us a moment of rest. It is what is behind the involuntary movements of the mind. To put all that down and let it go, is truly liberating.
To know I am not the sights I see, not the sounds I hear. I am not the smells, the tastes, the tactile sensations. I am not the content of my thoughts or ideas. I am not this body, not my memories, not my perceptions, feelings, not even my consciousness. When one examines all these things with a mind calmed through meditation, one sees clearly that there is no self in any of these things. When you filter all that out, what are you left with?
In early Buddhism they didn't have a statue of the Buddha. Just an empty seat, or a set of footprints. This is the meaning of what a tathagatha is. 'One who has thus gone.' There never was a Buddha, just the dhamma. One who sees the dhamma sees the Buddha. One who sees the Buddha sees the dhamma. What does that mean? That there never was a self, there never was any person there. When all ignorance is seen through, one is gone, thoroughly gone. And what a relief that is. To not feel driven by the conceit I am. That is the end of suffering.
The self is the root of all our problems. When we stop clinging to it, suffering ceases. Once you see this, everywhere you look in the world you will see the conceit I am. It is the root of all our world's problems, all our social ills, it is the cause of greed, hate, and delusion.