Our 2017 Montana spring family retreat, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, in pictures:
Category Archives: Local Retreats
Our Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat just occurred over this past weekend. We were honored and delighted to have Sister Brightness and Sister Friendliness join us from Deer Park Monastery to lead our retreat. We had a lovely time practicing together as a harmonious sangha beside the beautiful Flathead Lake!
We just had our annual Montana Open Way Sanghas spring family retreat up on the Flathead Lake in Lakeside, Montana. It was our biggest retreat yet, with 56 adults and 26 kids (aged 2-14). For my retreat summary post this time around I’ll just share some of my favorite photos and also something I wrote in my journal early one morning.
I wanted to share about an experience I had recently on our local fall retreat last weekend that served as a good reminder about how it’s never helpful or beneficial when I get caught in comparing myself to others. While I practice not to use words such as always or never I think in this case it stands true: it’s never helpful to self-compare.
On Saturday evening during the retreat instead of eating dinner with the rest of our community those of us who were OI members (ordained practitioners within Thich Nhat Nhan’s Order of Interbing) were asked to eat together, along with our visiting dharma teacher Terry Cortez-Vega, downstairs from the main dining area. We had some business to attend to after spending a few minutes in silence during our practice of eating meditation. Normally all of our meals during our local retreats are held in silence and we’re invited to practice eating meditation during them. Oftentimes during our retreats eating meditation instructions look something like this: After you take a bite of food put your fork down and chew slowly, savoring your food, until the taste has diminished. Then pick up your fork and take your next bite.
While I used to be an incredibly fast eater when I was young, to the point of having unspoken contests with my cousins to see who could finish first, I no longer consider myself an overly quick eater. Even so, the instructions offered above have never spoken to me. It’s much to sluggish and un-enjoyable for me to eat that slowly. I’m simply not a fan of putting my fork down after every bite and chewing each one long enough to lose its flavor. That’s not to say things can’t change. Perhaps one day I’ll connect with this level of slow eating. There have been many other elements of the practice and things we’ve done on retreats that I used to really dislike but have changed my tune on over the years. But for right now I alter the practice of eating meditation to suit what works for me and I have the greatest of confidence that that is precisely what we are encouraged to do in our mindfulness tradition. We do what works for us.
As I mentioned in my last post: Open Way Fall Retreat 2015 (Part 1), last weekend was our local Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat. The pictures featured here were taken during our weekend together. Dharma teacher Terry Cortez-Vega joined us from Austin, TX to lead our meditation retreat. I took some notes during her dharma talks and wanted to share a few of them:
Everything we experience, everything we think is in flux, is impermanent. It’s not impermanence that makes us suffer it’s that we think things are permanent when they’re not. When we have the flu or are stuck in traffic we trust in the nature of impermanence that things will change. Impermanence is not a philosophy, it’s a practice.
Non-self doesn’t mean we don’t exist, it means we are impermanent.
The buddha taught that there are 3 kinds of suffering: 1. 2nd arrow suffering, where we multiply the stress of an event that takes place. 2. Willie Nelson suffering (Terry called it), where we want to hold onto what we like and get rid of what we don’t like. 3. Looking for solid ground suffering, wanting guarantees and certainty in life. Thay teaches that we need to let go of the little sufferings so that we can conserve energy for the big stuff.
This last weekend was our annual Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat. Once again we used the Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp facility in Lakeside, MT which sits right on the Flathead Lake – so lovely! As a bit of background the Montana Open Way Sanghas consists of four sanghas in three different towns in western Montana: Open Way and Be Here Now (my group) in Missoula, Flowing Mountains in Helena, and Open Sky in Kalispell. Our collective sanghas are joined together as sister communities in the mindfulness tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing. The buddhist word Sangha means spiritual community in Sanskrit. We all join together for two retreats a year, assemble an annual newsletter publication, and our leaders meet quarterly. We are a big happy family here in Big Sky Country!
Our retreats start on a Thursday evening and end on Sunday afternoons. This past weekend we had 60 retreat attendants, our largest adult population yet to date. How wonderful it is that we have these opportunities locally to go on retreat and to be attracting so many folks. We brought in a dharma teacher from Austin, TX to lead our retreat, Terry Cortez-Vega. It was the first time she had come to lead a retreat for us and we very much enjoyed her down to earth style and way of sharing the dharma with us.
Our Montana sanghas have had another wonderful retreat. This past weekend was our annual spring retreat. Our greater Montana sanghas put together two retreats every year, one in the spring and one in the fall. This spring we had a family retreat and kids were welcome to attend. And we had our biggest retreat yet! 71 people all together, including the children. Our Montana sanghas include Open Way and Be Here Now in Missoula, Flowing Mountains in Helena, and Open Sky in Kalispell. We’re all one big happy sangha family in the big sky state :)
With the presence of children there was a good deal less silence held during the course of our 2 1/2 day retreat. But I found that the silence was replaced with joy, laughter, more smiling, and a rich sweetness that can only be offered by children. I am so grateful for all of the families that came with their kids to experience a retreat together. The energy of the children enriched our sangha and brought the much needed element of lightness into our retreat. Sometimes as adults we can become too serious, rigid, and somber. Children can be wonderful teachers in the art of lightening up and coming back to the present moment with joy and ease.