Solo Retreat, Part 2 of 3

Written on Saturday June 17th, 2017


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

Inspired by Michael Ciborski’s song arrangement of the sutra passage I mentioned yesterday, I decided to come up with my own melody today, as I was preparing dinner. I had so much fun piecing it all together! I continued honing it in as I took my walk outside among the bluebirds and sage. The sun was gloriously splayed out over the hills and mountains, warmth cascading down.

Here are a few little things I wrote in my journal early this morning:

Daybreak has put a temporary hold
on the mystery and trepidation
coiled in the folds of darkness.
Light reveals all things once held
in shadow by its absence.


A snapshot of beauty,
unbelievable in its magnitude,
shifts and changes
outside this picture window I’m perched beside –
I just got why it’s called a picture window!


I knew if I could get through the night,
accompanied by my irrational fears
of what could be hidden stealthily
in the woven darkness,
dawn would release me,
offering a renewed sense
of vitality, ripe with opportunity


To simply inhale deeply
this landscape,
along with the bluebirds,
is a great source of replenishment.


For today’s Dharma talk, I watched a video of Thay’s given during the August 2007 Estes Park Retreat in Colorado. It was particularly special because it was at that very retreat that I ordained into the Order or Interbeing. The talk was entitled: The Elements of Healing Within You. At the start of his talk he shared this meal verse:

The sangha is invited to share a meal in brotherhood and sisterhood,
Aware that we are nourishing our ancestors and children in us while eating.
We are not a separate entity from our ancestors and our children.
Let us be nourished by our brotherhood and sisterhood while sharing a meal together.


Perhaps my favorite moment of the day came early this morning. I was on my way to the bathroom when I heard a loud, strange-sounding call. I hurried in its direction and found a ginormous black scruffy bird perched on the front railing, only about four-feet away from the picture window in the living room – I had a magnificent view of him! He was making a noise of which I can only think to call bark-honking. I’ve never seen a bird of such magnitude that close before, nor have I ever heard such a peculiar bird call. I rushed to get my camera but he quickly flew off. I’ve been looking through bird books here to try and find out what it was. Nothing yet. I’m dearly hoping he’s a regular morning visitor and that I’ll have a chance to see him tomorrow – and maybe even get a picture!

To end my journal entry for today I’ll share this:

Solo Retreat Guiding Statement

To commune with myself, using the energies of mindfulness and concentration,
and to commune with the nature of life, both inside and around me.


3 thoughts on “Solo Retreat, Part 2 of 3

  1. I’m really enjoying reading about your solo retreat- may I ask what your Sutra Service looks like? When I return from Deer Park, I try to maintain the monastery schedule when I have my personal day of mindfulness. Well, to the best of my ability, with family and sons’s comings and goings! ;)

    • Sure thing, good question! So, I chanted the opening verse and then I practiced learning the new Heart Sutra chant (Thay’s translation) using Michael Ciborski’s audio CD that he put together and sells (so I would play the audio track and chant along). Then I would read (out loud to myself) a sutra from the chanting book and also Invoking the Boddhisattvas Names – and then I would read something else, too, like Nourishing Happiness (on page 44 in the hardback chant book) or this handout I got from Rowan on the Four Immeasurable Minds of Love. Then I would chant the closing verse. I really liked utilizing Michael’s audio CD – on Friday night I listened to his track on Touching the Earth, which was really lovely to follow along with. So, I followed along with the basic premise of a typical sutra service but sort of made it my own too :)

      I’d love to hear more about what you do for your personal days of mindfulness! :)

  2. Pingback: Blog share: “Going outwards and inwards.” – My Wellbeing and Learning Journey

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