We just had our local Montana Open Way Sanghas annual spring retreat which started Thursday May 1st in the evening and ended on Sunday May 4th in the early afternoon. Our retreat was held once again at the beautiful Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp in Lakeside, MT, which sits right on the Flathead Lake. Dharma teacher Michael Ciborski led our retreat, of which 48 people were in attendance. If you’re interested in listening to the dharma talks he gave during the retreat please go to: http://openway.org/audio
Our Montana Open Way Sanghas consist of four sanghas in three different cities in western Montana: Open Way and Be Here Now in Missoula, Flowing Mountains in Helena, and Open Sky in Kalispell. We are all Thich Nhat Hanh based sanghas with strong communities in our respective locations that join together for two annual retreats a year, mindfulness days, council meetings, and other events throughout the year. I feel very fortunate and grateful to be part of such a vibrant mindfulness community here in big sky country.
Our retreat included sitting and walking meditation, readings, dharma talks, mindful meals, Qi Gong stick exercise, mindful movements, outdoor walking meditation, dharma discussion groups, teacher interviews, personal free time, a mindfulness training panel, Q & A with our teacher, a mindfulness training transmission ceremony, and more. I was one of the two directors for this retreat and very much enjoyed all of the preparations, planning, and organizing that went into creating this lovely retreat. I’m one of those peculiar sorts who likes to plan and organize :) So being a retreat director suits me very well. And with all of the many years that Open Way sangha in Missoula has been gathering and leading retreats (25 years this year if I’m not mistaken) it has been very easy to take on the director position because the road has been lovingly laid out before me with great effort, time, and attention.
Retreats are an opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate and can offer time to look deeply and slow down. Of course this is not always the case for everyone. I remember my first few retreats being quite challenging and generally pretty awful really. My experience didn’t have anything to do with the retreat itself but more so with my relationship to it (like anything in life right?). And while I honestly don’t recall why I kept attending retreats fortunately I did keep going. Certainly not everything is someone’s cup of tea however it takes time to really understand whether an experience is a matter of incompatibility or simply a matter of the stretching and ultimate growing of one’s comfort zone, which takes time. Retreats, for me, had to do with the latter.
And the journey of stretching and growing still continues…