Making Friends With Myself at the Winter Dathün

A Day in the Life
Created Mon, Apr 9, 2018 by
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KCL Staff
"Down River," by John Kovalsky

Early on, within the first few days of Karmê Chöling’s Winter Dathün, I recognized I had never given myself this much space. Another way of saying that would be that I’ve never had that much freedom to just be OK with what was right in front of me: thirty days to meditate, be mindful and learn from an amazing teacher. I remember taking a walk during the first week and thinking this was the greatest gift I’ve ever given to myself. Within that same recognition I realized I don’t think I’ve ever been that kind or loving to myself before. I asked myself if I even knew what it means to love myself. It was a sad but also happy moment because I knew I had the rest of the month to really see what that means and to let that gestate.

Prior to arriving at Karmê Chöling, I had been feeling heartbroken about circumstances in my life as well as feeling that I wasn’t where I should be in my career. A major part of my time was spent processing those emotions and healing. I started to recognize the deep rooted motivations of choices I had been making in my life and the patterns that I followed. Not that my intentions weren’t good and that I didn’t have healthy relationships or see progress in my career. However I noticed a general and subtle lack of confidence was lurking in the shadows.

That being said I would say I’m a generally pretty positive and laid back kind of person so it was somewhat shaky ground to recognize these underlying parts of myself. Overall there was a fear of not being good enough, not good enough in the context of relationships and in the efforts I would need to make to be a successful filmmaker and storyteller.

It might seem depressing but these realizations were actually beautiful. I felt joy that I could shift the momentum of my life from the old “operating system” of how can I be better? to how I can be genuine and express myself honestly with confidence? I could see how much I had been getting in my own way by doubting myself.

The meditation practice itself gave me the gap to catch those moments and say, “No, I want to do something different.” Part of overcoming it was just accepting those things were there and not so much fighting them or trying to get rid of them. All that meditation gave me no choice but to let them wash over me completely.

I’ve spent a lot of time meditating before coming to Dathün, but nothing like the long hours and the silence during the program. There was something to be said about doing this program in January surrounded by the snow; it created a very insular experience that felt very fitting for a meditation retreat.

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Most days, practice created a space where intense emotions came up and you couldn’t escape them. It was scary but empowering. You knew you had to face them, but when you came out the other side, so to speak, you touched something of yourself that maybe you didn’t know before. Some days were extremely beautiful and happy while others were full of strong anger or sadness.

When things were difficult we had an amazing staff and group of people who were there to support us. The meditation instructors, coordinator, and director were all longtime practitioners who could see what we were going through and knew how to guide us along the way. By the end, our group felt like a family. It was hard to say goodbye. We had shared something so personal and so profound. A safe space developed where people felt comfortable with each other and could shed tears in the shrine room together. Each person had different reasons for being there, but it was the hard work and practice that bonded us.

It’s been a few months since the Dathün and it really has taken that long to fully process. I’ve seen my discipline and ability to overcome difficult situations and emotions strengthen. Most of all, when I look back on the experience it feels like a landmark in my life, like graduating college or moving into my own place for the first time. It was a transitional point where things began to shift in a more positive and healthier direction. It was as if I wore a new groove into my way of being, that groove being a deeper appreciation for myself and my own instincts. The old way of looking down on myself and the feeling that there was something outside of me that would bring me happiness has lost its momentum. It’s still there, but it doesn’t hold as much weight and I find it easier to come back to a healthier outlook. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche described meditation practice as becoming friends with yourself, and I really think that’s what has started to happen, even making space for those parts of myself I’d rather weren’t there.

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None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the wonderful program staff and Karmê Chöling staff. The respect for what we were doing and the support offered in such a sacred space allowed all of this to occur. I’m tremendously grateful and feel so blessed to have had that opportunity.

Moving forward, that experience lent itself to turning outward and wanting to help others. Finding that level of peace and contentment within myself made me look outward instead of being so self-centered. I’ve been able to handle all of my life situations more kindly and more confidently. There’s been a ripple effect in my life that has naturally benefited my friendships and relationship with my family and my community. It’s not an overly ambitious kind of feeling.It’s one of centeredness, and knowing I can do good things just by feeling OK to be myself.

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