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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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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Montana Open Way Sanghas Spring Family Retreat

Our 2017 Montana spring family retreat, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, in pictures:

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Staying Put

slow-down

Yep. This is me sharing about brushing my teeth. Riveting topic eh?! Actually, it is! This is precisely what engaged Buddhism is all about: Finding ways in which to bring the art of mindfulness into every aspect of our daily life.

One of the new mindfulness practices I’ve taken up recently centers around brushing my teeth. When I got back from Deer Park Monastery at the end of January, after a 3-week retreat stay, I came to see just how dispersed my energy was while brushing my teeth. As soon as I hastily squeezed a dollop of toothpaste onto my brush in the mornings I would quickly take to leaving the bathroom, and set to doing a myriad of things that really had no business in trying to be accomplished while in the midst of brushing. I might go outside and start my car to warm it up or prepare a fresh cup of tea or ready my lunch to take with me to work. I would do all sorts of things around the house with my toothbrush protruding from my mouth. I would actively brush for a bit and then proceed back to whatever multi-tasking “urgent” matter needed tending to. It was comical!

So my new practice is to “stay put”. To not leave the bathroom and to stay there in front of the sink while brushing my teeth. What I’m experiencing as a natural by-product is that by simply staying put I am also slowing down. It reminds me of how when I practice a day of silence, slowing down happens in tandem, seemingly on its own accord. By staying put I am automatically able to slow down, which affords me the opportunity to connect more readily with what I am doing. No longer am I hurriedly scrubbing my teeth as a sort of task to get out of the way. I’m practicing awareness of my teeth, of how fortunate I am to have them, and to care for them by slowing down and paying attention to the act of brushing. I’m practicing awareness of my breathing and of my gratitude for having running water. I’m practicing to feel my feet on the ground beneath me as I stand in front of the sink.

A couple of weeks ago a sangha member shared about how they’ve been practicing to slow down their personal teeth brushing regiment as a way to strengthen the development of patience, a particular quality they felt very weak on. Having not spoken of my own practice around this same subject, I was delighted to hear her timely sharing. The power and importance of having a community of support, a sangha, never ceases to inspire and astound me.

It’s still a new practice for me. It’s not uncommon for me to catch myself just as I’m about to leave the bathroom with my toothbrush in tow. But I do catch it. As my foot prepares to cross the threshold of the bathroom door, I remember. Then I smile to my strong habit energy, before returning back to my “staying put” spot in front of the sink.

 
 

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Deer Park, Day 20 & 21

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese

dscn6035

 

Day 20:
Thursday January 26th, 2017

6:14pm

Haikus:

A new dark moon has come
Darkening the sky with stars
With the tides, I smile

Evening settles in
Clear skies promise stars to shine
I exhale with ease

__________

Today, I did the unthinkable: I warmed up enough to take my thick hoodie and alpaca socks off! The sun shone with warmth and golden brilliance. It was splendid in a way that words cannot convey. And we had a lazy afternoon in which to thoroughly enjoy it, without any scheduled programs to call us indoors. Since it was also Lay Friends Day, I was able to spend it with Mike, too!

I am dearly looking forward to returning home tomorrow. Home to our son, our cats, our little house, our mountains, our winter, our sangha, our sweet Missoula. I’m also looking forward to going to the airport and engaging in the grand adventure of flight travel! So great!

I’m also looking forward to having access to my own personal space. The only-child within me, calls out for solitude – for a string of moments to myself, without the clutter of others. Everywhere I go here it seems there is someone in close tow. My hut is always occupied, and even on the scads of trails spiraling around the monastery, there is always the possibility of someone just around the next bend.

Silence is not easy to come by. It stows itself away, easily succumbing to swells of fitful clamor. I look for its shade, ravenously defending it when finally, by such rare graces, it appears. Sometimes I feel as though I am alone in my quest for silence – that there are few people who’s heart, like mine, connects more openly in its cradling embrace.

Earlier today we had a dharma sharing circle with the lay friends up in Solidity Hamlet, where we were prompted to speak about why we came to Deer Park. At first it seemed to me to be a rather un-important question – shouldn’t it be obvious why we’ve all come here? But as I considered it more deeply, I realized it was, in fact, a vital question to ask ourselves. It also reminded me of something Brother Phap Hai said in his last Dharma talk about how we need to routinely ask ourselves why we practice mindfulness. I shared about how I come here to: deepen my concentration on the practice of coming home to myself, to strengthen my sovereignty, to delve further into the true nature of life, and to move a metal folding chair and be completely aware of moving a metal folding chair. I spoke about how I equally look forward to both coming here and returning home. And I spoke about how I don’t come here to “retreat” from my daily life, to leave it behind as some sort of “other” reality, but to more fully engage with it. These are some of the reasons why I came here this year.

I’m a mindfulness practitioner because this practice enables me to water the seeds of joy and happiness in myself and in the world – and the more water, the better! And retreats offer a nice, heavy saturating dose of rain (in more ways than one!).

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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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Deer Park, Day 19

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese

ecakesMaking earth cakes for TET

Day 19:
Wednesday January 25th, 2017

7:06am

Yesterday was earth cake making day, in preparation for the Lunar New Year, which is this coming weekend. The making of earth and sky cakes is a Vietnamese tradition, involving the simple ingredients of rice and mug beans wrapped in banana leaves, which are cooked in large pots filled with water over an open fire. The whole community gathers together to create them. It’s a day of being joyfully together. The hamlets eat their meals together in “picnic style”, as it is phrased here, which means they are not held in silence. Songs and stories are shared around the fire. It is a time of social gathering and celebration. It takes the large pots of earth cakes about 8 hours to cook, so people often drift in and out. Since it meant I could spend the day with Mike I was very happy :) Even though I was also quite cold for much of the day, once again. I think the coldness is settling itself deeper and deeper into my bones, as each day I seem to grow a little more susceptible to its clutches. It’s a clear and open sky this morning. I’m hoping the sun’s warmth will not be stolen away by the chill of the air.

Haikus I wrote this morning:

Morning skies are clear
Stars shine near and far with ease
Darkness turns to light

Parched earth drinks anew
Rocks house waterfalls and streams
Green adorns my steps

____________

6:22pm

More haikus!

Life giving sunshine
Gratitude for your smile
Your warmth is my warmth

Tea cup in my hands
Filled to the brim with rain clouds
Always seeing more

_____________

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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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