This post summarises some of my general reflections after the 4-week “Spring Retreat” with Peter Ralston in Texas, USA.

Look out for future posts on specific principles, distinctions and experience of the work, for example: ‘Grounded’, ‘Honesty’, ‘Not Knowing’, ‘Effortless’ and further reflections on learning about learning (and learners).

 

The first thing to express in summary is gratitude for Peter and his assistant Brendan’s gift of time and instruction over the month. Receiving the gift of someone’s life’s work and contribution is always a special. When it’s someone as enlightened, obsessive and skilful as Peter, I feel it becomes harder and less adequate to express in words: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” (quote attributed to John F Kennedy).

 

Peter Ralston

 

While I consider that I’ve invested quite a bit of time, money and attention in personal, professional and spiritual development over my life, the “Experiencing the Nature of Being” (ENB) week was unlike anything else I’ve done. Not just in the content or approach, but it seemed Peter was coming from a fundamentally different place and working with us differently than those teachers or traditions that come from some sense of knowing, lineage or dogma. More than any other thing I’ve done it seems like this has had a significant impact on my being, relationships and how I ‘do’ things.

 

Through Peter’s  instructions and guidance I became aware of things that had gone unquestioned, ways in which I avoid responsibility, how forcefully and continuously my “operating principle” (e.g. to be perceived as smart, knowledgable) unconsciously drives my behaviour, how little I know about ‘knowing’ and truth, how I create boxes and boundaries and realities, and how persistently I ‘do’ and act out of some idea and history of ‘Andrew’ and how that insistent projecting, being and relating can create a sense of ‘boredom’ with self, life and others.

 

Peter provide literally dozens of different ways to re-frame, re-experience and question self, reality and assumptions. These included contemplating ‘Who Am I” in diads, guided meditations to identify all the ‘things’ that I identify as self, games and conversations that revealed the limits of my awareness, knowing, responsibility and honesty, and storytelling and lectures that massively expanded my sense of possibility. A whole week or month could have been spent on any one of those contemplations or questions. There were many that had immediate and lasting impact (e.g. the distinction-making nature of consciousness, and the constant co-arising/creation of reality), some questions that I continue to hold now (e.g. Who Am I) and practices that have relevance and application in many areas of my life (e.g. diads).

 

Ralston's Texan Dojo

 

Back in Geraldton, Australia and work, life, relationships I and others are noticing subtle or obvious differences in how I am ‘being’ differently. This includes being am more conscious of the distinctions and assumptions I’m making, if/how I am being anything less than honest, and seeking ways to achieve my ‘purpose’ (in particular contexts) now, not ‘later’. It’s a way of being and relating that I don’t want to ‘leave’ or let go of, and feels like it has really shifted my sense of self, how I experience, and how I relate.

 

The body-being and martial weeks were really appreciated too. They gave me more time to contemplate, integrate, and observe patterns and relationships. Without that additional time I don’t think I would have gained such a grounding in the ENB work. Without the ENB work I would have been even less ‘open’ to the martial work.

 

Damian and Thomas Cheng Hsin

 

Being able to spend such a lot of time on effortless power, including the personal feedback and adjustments were really valuable. I felt and understood many things that just wouldn’t have happened in any other time or context e.g. all the ways I can not ‘hear’ what is being said, how limited my possibilities were about how to play games, how much intellect can obstruct actual experience, feeling and learning. The actual martial stuff is also useful – I got enough to be able to train and teach with others in this wonderful form of non-linear, creative, relaxed being and interacting. And martial practice gives me the opportunity to compete and fight in an honest, experimental and fun way, rather than creating or participating in ‘fights’ in the context of professional and personal relationships!

 

Another significant aspect of the month was what I learned about learning, teaching, myself and others as a learner. That’s an ongoing area of inquiry, observation and learning…and already the way I facilitate and teach in the workshops and programs I run has been improved through the lessons learned from you and in the workshop environment.

 

It all feels like just a beginning. Perhaps it will stay that way. Perhaps I will stay this way!

 

Path to the Dojo