Week 4 – Online Winter Retreat

Week 4 – Online winter retreat, presented by Deer Park Monastery.  To follow along copy and paste this in your browser, there are talks, questions and readings posted every week: http://deerparkmonastery.org/teachings/the-ten-gates-online-course-winter-2012-2013/the-ten-gates-online-course-winter-2012-2013

I’m still lagging behind in the set course of the winter retreat, but that’s OK :)


Reflection Questions

1) Reflecting on my practice, how is it a gift- to myself, my dear ones, my Sangha?

I see that one of the biggest fruits of my practice is to cultivate presence.  When I am present with myself I can be present for someone else and for my sangha.  Presence is a gift.  Our true presence is the greatest gift we can offer to someone else.

2) From my practice of stopping and coming back to my senses during the past week- what themes have emerged? Have I noticed that I tend to be more aware of sounds, or smells, or tastes, or sights, or sensations? What are some of the more consistent themes that have been running through my thoughts this past week?

When I practice stopping the first sense that I notice is my hearing.  I hear the sounds of traffic or the people around me or whatever else is going on.  The consistent themes I’ve been noticing lately have been related to coming back to my true home in the here and now and being an island unto myself.  I am coming into relationship with the deeper capacity within myself to not be swept away by the goings on around me or the emotions of others.  It is a deep well within us all to be able to root ourselves firmly in the here and now and not be swept away or overcome by differing forms of negativity or unskillfulness.

3) Reflecting back over my mandala of practice for this winter (Study, practice, work, play)- what have I found easy and what have I found challenging? What do I resist most?

I have been sitting at least once a week on my own outside of sangha and that feels like a nice step in my practice.  Work and play are the areas I am very strong in and this is still the same.  Study, as I mentioned earlier in one of the retreat reflection exercises, is what I resist the most.  But over the last few weeks I’ve been  listening to the talks associated with the winter retreat, reading articles written by Thay and the monastics, and also watching or listening to dharma talks by Thay and I see all of this in the realm of study.

And since my 5 day juice fast I’ve stayed off of candy bars which is wonderful!  I’ve had other sweets but my addiction lies in chocolate bars so not having had them since Thanksgiving is a big thing for me.  The juice fast really helped me to get back to healthy eating.  Healthy eating and lessening unskillful habits can be a very difficult practice.  It feels nice to be making a little bit of progress in letting go of my strong habit energy towards sugar.

Suggested Practices

This coming week, building on the practice of coming back to my senses, throughout the day we are invited to walk through the door of becoming more aware of the three roots in our conscious- the seeking, grasping mind, aversion and not seeing things as they are. Throughout this coming week, in your stopping practice, notice and smile to the stories that you tell yourself about the experiences that you are having. What interpretations are you making? At the end of the week, it may be helpful to go back over the themes that we noticed during the week and see if they still resonate with us, or whether a few days later, we see the situation quite differently.

Have fun!

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