I’ve not written anything for a while because I’ve been finding my new life rather challenging. It is cold and I feel a little lonely, especially in the evenings, and I have doubts about the purpose and value of what I’ve chosen to do. I hovered about in Stourport for a few days not really knowing what to do and then moved sluggishly on to Kidderminster where I moored in the town centre amid shopping centres and multi-laned roads busy with Christmas traffic. I also had some problems with the engine – minor as it turned out. Over Christmas I visited friends for a delightful few days at Adhisthana but on my return to the boat I felt bleak. Bleak was the right word – not a happy state, but one that has flavoured my mind for several weeks.
When I lived at Guhyaloka, our retreat centre in the Spanish mountains I occasionally went to the Coast for various reasons. As I drove down from the mountains I invariably felt excited at the prospect. I semi-consciously looked forward to the stimulation of all those attractive things in the shops and the many pretty women that I’d see. But, as the day wore on the excitement faded into boredom and even mild resentment. As I drove back into the mountains I’d often feel rather bleak. This seemed wrong. Shouldn’t I feel happy to be returning to the contentment and beauty of our mountain retreat? Once back at Guhyaloka – sometimes within hours and always within a day or so – my mind returned to the contented, happy, almost ecstatic state that I generally enjoyed living there.
One day I realized what was happening. The prospect of delights on the Coast stimulated my craving but this was not satisfied and so, as I returned to the mountains (rather like when I was a student I’d return disappointed to my bed-sit in the early hours of a Sunday morning) I experienced life as disappointing, unsatisfying, empty – bleak. But as soon as I was settled back at Guhyaloka this painful state was replaced by the contentment that arose from the conditions of our retreat life. It was all very clear – shockingly simple.
It seems that ‘The Bleakness’ is a state of unsatisfied craving, or the loss of something to which I’ve been attached and my experience of it recently is a result of giving up various comforts and securities. I’ve abandoned physical comfort and the security of familiar surroundings, the proximity of friends, a sense of purpose (looking after my father) and so on. I feel alienated from the people and place in which I find myself – life has lost it’s flavour of warmth and belonging and I have some doubts about what I am doing. But, based on my experience at Guhyaloka I hope that ‘The Bleakness’ will resolve when I can drop those attachments and that I’ll discover a greater degree of Freedom.