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Solo Retreat, Part 3 of 3

Written on Sunday June 18th, 2017

10:40am

From my early morning journaling on sunrise patrol (hence pics above):

4:11am – A triangle of light glistens between two eastern peaks. 51 degrees.
4:22am – Outlines of each mountain are gathering distinction from their darkened counterpart above.
4:25am – A drop of light is tossed over to beckon through another soft dip in the ridge.
4:26am – An unassuming rain falls, almost as an afterthought. 51 degrees.
4:28am – Local bird residents become audible.
4:32am – An artistic rendering of budding light and swirling watercolor clouds paint the horizon in deep blues, black violet, and white turquoise.
4:41am – Pine tree silhouettes come into view, accenting the skyline with their bristled scruff tops.
4:45am – Dawn has penetrated the veil of night in every cardinal direction – no longer is coal the dominant hue of the sky. 51 degrees.
4:53am – The vertical ocean of clouds assumed a color scheme I associate somehow with the energy of dwindling hope.
5:01am – Almost all of the surrounding landscape is bathed in partial faded light.
5:08am – Foothills and fence-line reveal themselves anew, as though it were the first day of their creation.
5:17am – A sliver of brilliant golden rose appears right where the very first light penetrated the night sky.
5:28am – Sage, moss, and forest greens sip their first taste of the white-silver morning.
5:36am – Smokey pink-creme rays spiral up like tufts of steam into the soft din of low-hanging clouds.
5:39am – A lone cow elk cameos on scene. Still holding at 51 degrees.
6:08am – 50 degrees.
6:21am – 49 degrees. (Hmmm.)
8:31am – What I was waiting for to end this sequence has finally happened – 52 degrees!

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 2 of 3

Written on Saturday June 17th, 2017

7:19pm

A few years ago, a university student, who was sitting with our sangha at the time, asked if she could do a video project of me on the topic of meditation for a journalism class she was taking. One of the questions she prompted me with on camera was to fill in the blank: Meditation is like ______. I said: Meditation is like stepping out into the first light of spring. It was simply the first thing that came to mind. Well, today has felt this way, too. It has been the loveliest of days. I feel light, refreshed, nourished, peaceful, and contented. What great fruits this practice brings!

It’s worth mentioning that while I did come up with a schedule to serve as a foundation for this weekend, I also intended on going with the flow of the day and following my intuition. Here’s what today wound up looking like:

5:30am Wake up
5:30-7:00am Sip tea, write, watch the morning sky
7:00am Sitting meditation
7:30am Sutra service
8:00am Stick exercises
8:30-9:00am Breakfast
9:15-10:30am Dharma talk video
10:30-11:15am Outdoor walking
11:30-12:15pm Yoga (using guided video)
12:15-12:45pm Picnic lunch outside
12:45-1:45pm Nap
2:00-4:00pm Sip tea, write, calligraphy, read
4:00pm Sitting meditation
4:30pm Sutra service
5:00-6:00pm Dinner
6:15-6:45pm Outdoor walking & sage picking
7:00-9:00pm Journal typing
9:00-9:30pm Read
9:30ish Bedtime

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 1 of 3

Written on Friday June 16th, 2017

7:32pm

The idea of doing a solo retreat has been a brewing interest of mine for a little while now. Then, after going to Deer Park Monastery for three-weeks this past January, my percolating idea bubbled up with a newfound vigor. So I emailed a few well-chosen friends who I thought might have some ideas of a place to go where I could be relatively secluded, surrounded by nature, and left to my own devices.

I’ve long been wanting to stay in one of the handful of local fire towers that’ve been converted to a reservable getaway destination spot, but I soon found out that those are in high demand and already fully booked up for the season, which makes sense. (Note to self: book early for next year!)

A sangha friend generously offered me the use of her and her husband’s cabin about an hour from town, which is where I’ve landed and am currently typing from. I arrived here, amid spectacular rolling sage-covered foothills, around 4:30 this afternoon. After finding my way around the house and unpacking the car, I set to making dinner, which I intentionally kept simple: a pre-made salad and a bowl of vegetarian chili, made and sold by our local organic market The Good Food Store, which I picked up this morning.

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Absence of Sound

For a brief interlude, I could detect nothing audible. 
No whirling of the refrigerator, 
no distant whooshing of passing cars, 
no song chatter of birds. 
It was as if all the world had tipped over a precipice 
and was free-falling amid the din of there being nothing left to do but let go.

It was a rare and fragile moment I was only half prepared to savor.
Mostly I was caught off guard,
wondering what had suddenly changed.
When I realized I was cradled in the absence of sound,
I took one breath and it was over,
my ears and heart re-attuned,
so as to be ready in case it happened again.

 
 

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Comparison is the thief of joy

One of my most favorite quotes:

Comparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt

Two of my own specific examples of how I get caught in this particular comparison trap are with those who garden and those who have a work-out/exercise regiment of some kind.

I find that gardens and physically fit people abound here in Missoula. I sometimes find myself thinking: Man, I should be more into gardening or: Man, I should get a gym membership – and, ya know, go, or whatever.

But I don’t. I don’t do either one. And I can make myself feel bad about it. Until I remember, once again, that I’m very content and happy with everything I prioritize my time with – that there’s only so much time in the day and I make conscious choices about how I spend that time, and it all suits me just fine.

 
 

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Just Sayin’

One of the greatest gifts I’ve learned, and continue to learn, from having a mindfulness practice is this:

My state of mind and quality of being are never created or alleviated by anyone other than myself. The more responsibility I take for my thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions, the happier and lighter I become.

 

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A Certain Kind of Insanity

A light breeze blows,
showering me with creme-colored, circular elm seeds,
littering my outdoor work-space with debris.

I huff at my freshly cleared-off tablecloth becoming strewn with seed pods…again.

But, what am I expecting to have happen here? I’m sitting outside under a freakin’ elm tree, after all.

_______________

There’s a certain kind of learned, common human insanity that plagues our patterns of thought in detrimental, destructive ways.

I think it’s worth asking ourselves this question: What percentage of my day is spent wishing something was other than as it is?

I wish I were more _____ and less _____. I wish so-and-so was less of a jerk, for that dude to drive better, and for that lady to pipe down. I wish I had a cup of coffee or a brownie or a stiff drink. I wish it was warmer out or cooler out or dryer out or wetter out. I wish I didn’t have to go to work or do the laundry or haul the kids all over town or make dinner….

Not to sound harsh or anything, but, if you really want to be happy, you’re gonna need to stop trying so hard.

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.

 

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