After several days passed I began to experience some sitting meditations where my mind got very quiet and I was able to follow the breath for several minutes at a time without any distractions. One day I noticed this odd sensation on the in-breath which eventually revealed itself to be my heart beating. I always have this image of the cresent moon coming out from behind a cloud when I think about the impact of suddenly having a clear perception of my beating heart and it’s relationship to the breath, like the lifting of a veil. I began to go deeper into the sensation of my beating heart and I found that I could feel the pulsation of the blood radiating outward from the heart. I could follow that sensation with my mind outward from the center of my chest and into my arms and legs. As I focused on the sensations of the pulsations, I got a very clear sense of the circulatory system and the way the arteries divide into smaller and smaller branches. When my concentration was strong enough, I could sense my heartbeats radiating all the way into the capillaries in my fingers. The image in my mind’s eye was incredibly clear and three dimensional, like something you might see in an Alex Grey painting. When I would get up to transition into walking meditation, I would try to move very slowly, trying to maintain my deep concentration on the circulatory sensations as I rose to standing but the flood of different sensations that arise with movement made focusing so intently on any one aspect too challenging.
February is such a wonderful time to be there as the weather can be quite warm at times and the creeks are often full of water at that time of year. The frog chorus from the surrounding creeks can seem incredibly loud and you can hear them peeping away from inside the meditation hall. Invariably they would all go silent in unison, perhaps scared by some creatures movement. Then after a minute or so one brave one would start with a peep. And then another from further away. And you could hear the sound begin to spread off into the distance along the length of the creek.
I remember one time, sitting in the meditation hall in the afternoon when everything became particularly still and my mind seemed incredibly clear. Somebody in the room coughed and I felt the sound in my body. I began to notice various sounds in the room of people breathing and shifting positions and all the sounds seemed to be coming from inside of me rather than outside – as if I had expanded to contain all that was happening in the room.
The two weeks passed really quickly. I remember thinking several times that I could spend my whole life living like this. Time spent at a meditation retreat is so sweet. All of your basic needs are met and there’s nothing you need to do but just experience each moment as fully as possible. It felt like heaven. Not that every moment was blissful – not by a long shot. There were plenty of unpleasant experiences to be had, but I felt so grateful for the opportunity to just stop everything and experience being.