Reflections on my Beginner’s Mind Retreat (J.E.)

This was my first retreat, a 40th birthday present to myself.  Life has a way of building clutter, complications and jumbled thoughts.  I was feeling spread too thin, too impatient and too distracted.  I knew the problem, but didn’t know the solution.  Somehow the subject of meditation seemed to be surfacing more regularly.  I wanted to experience it with full guidance and ended up at this retreat with only a month of short, irregular, app guided meditation sessions under my belt.

The only thing required for this retreat is an open mind.  While I could describe the grounds, the buildings and schedule (all have a simple beauty), there are no words to describe the atmosphere – The sum is greater than its parts.  As I sit here trying to find a way to describe the experience, I realize it is a labor in vain as everyone likely experiences it differently.  While I can’t say my introspective ‘moments’ will be the same for others, I do believe if you arrive with the above requirement you will leave with a new sense of calm and appreciation.

Time stands still while on the retreat…I could have been there two days – or two months; could have been a stranger to the fellow retreatants– or known them my whole life.  I was different when I left than when I arrived…could it really be less than 48 hours later?  Upon leaving the retreat though, the memories fade quickly.  Effort is needed to continue the practice and maintain a sense of presence and calm in a world which is not cooperative towards such undertakings.  It is not an impossible task though – you will realize the tools have been there all along, the retreat just helps you realize it’s worth the effort to learn how to use them.

Reflections on my Beginner’s Mind Retreat (by S.A.)

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from the retreat at Dharma drum. I definitely wasn’t ready for the quite visceral effect it had on my body and the overwhelming emotions that followed. As I look back on my time there I find it hard to believe that only 2 days passed during this experience and as much as the first day was difficult and overwhelming, the second was all opening and I wished I could stay for longer.

I reflect often on Rebecca’s analogy of a twisted hose pipe moving frantically in every direction until the block is passed and the water can run smoothly. There are surely many decades of blocks and knots in me! But where as in the past I believed that I had to go back and examine each twist and knot in detail to move away (something I NEVER wanted to do) now I can just acknowledge them and let them go, looking forward to the time when the water runs smoothly. And already it feels a little calmer.

I come away from my time at the retreat feeling changed.

Changed in a way I don’t quite understand. Changed in a way I can’t express using words. I have a sense of beginning to understand something that was right there in front of me but which I never took the time to try to comprehend.

I feel simultaneously calm and strength. I have a notion of clarity, as if I just know what to do, not for anything in particular but just a general sensation.

I will take all of this and establish a daily practice and make it my priority. If I can make that happen, I’m sure that family, work, relationships, health in short everything, will benefit.

Reflections on my Western Zen Retreat with Rebecca Li, Simon Child and Hilary Richards at DDRC, October 2017

I had a powerful experience at the retreat. Asking the question “Who Am I” taught me a great deal about meditating and about myself. The process was intense, but also forgiving and freeing. My mind had time to notice and follow thoughts. Continue reading “Reflections on my Western Zen Retreat with Rebecca Li, Simon Child and Hilary Richards at DDRC, October 2017”

Reflections on my Foundation Retreat in November 2016 with Rebecca Li

In the past, attending retreats has been both challenging and very rewarding.  My anxieties and habits reliably seem to show themselves at retreats, and this time was no different.  Throughout the day on Saturday, I realized that something was bothering me.  It was only later that I realized that I was holding on to the expectation that on this retreat, I should be “over” these anxieties because I had already dealt with them.  I was expecting myself to be better at being present, and was judging myself for struggling with the method.  This was that old familiar perfectionism or high expectations creeping in again.  Having to do things right.  Having to succeed.  Getting stuck on mistakes.  Feeling guilty and beating up on myself.  What made it hard to detect is that it wasn’t quite clear to me at first.  It was more of a subtle creeping up of it.  But then of course once I realized what was going on, it was so clear.  And even clearer right now while writing this and reflecting back.  So this retreat was helpful in getting to see this pattern emerge again and hopefully be able to recognize it sooner going forward.  I don’t have expectations of it going away, but I do see my work as to continue to be more aware of it.

Continue reading “Reflections on my Foundation Retreat in November 2016 with Rebecca Li”