Life: (1 of 3) Zen and the art of Retreat

Life: (1 of 3) Zen and the art of Retreat March 13, 2006

mmm…. post retreat bliss.

I am just returning from two nights in the mountains of northern Idaho where I embarked on my first ever Soto Zen retreat. The retreat was led by Rev. Master Zensho of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, founded by Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett (1924-1996).It was an incredibly well-needed retreat. I was certainly feeling a bit out of sorts (as my last post should indicate). I was accompanied/brought along by my dear friend, Sally, a long time Soto Zen practitioner. Here she is in front of the Mission Mountains in northwestern Montana.

As you can see from this and the other photos, the trip was as much about getting out of Missoula and into the wild a bit, back in touch with the natural beauty of the northwest.

Here is a bit of a lake we passed on the way up.

And a sunset from the retreat house.
“the shop” – where two other guys and I stayed.

From the trip home: some buffalo grazing about 100 yards from the highway in Bison Range
And finally, me with the Mission Mountains behind me.

For those interested in some details: The retreat was hosted by a couple, in their home in the mountains just south of Sandpoint, Idaho. Sally and I arrived around 6pm Friday night, in time for dinner and evening meditation. For the first night it was just the five of us: our hosts, the monk, and Sally and I.

The meditation: briefly, we sat in the typical Buddhist posture (they aren’t rigid about leg posture), in rows facing the wall with eyes open (as opposed to facing each other with eyes closed, which I am more accustomed to). Their is no ‘object’ of the meditation, it is what I would call an ‘open awareness’ meditation, where one simply practices bare awareness and bringing a wandering mind back to that open awareness. It’s harder than it sounds 🙂

The schedule (from what I remember): after the Friday evening meditation, we had a short dharma talk and worked out the schedule a bit, then off to bed (around 9:30pm). Up at 6:30 for 7am meditation and short service. Breakfast (all meals Saturday and Sunday morning were in silence) around 8:30am, then meditation/walking meditation/meditation. Then a dharma talk, then lunch around noon and free time (for working, reading, resting) until 4pm, when we had another dharma talk, sitting/walking meditation/sitting. A light dinner, and then evening service and meditation. Then free time and to bed again at about 9:30 to start it all again Sunday. Around 1pm Sunday we finished with one last dharma talk and conversation as people began packing up to go.

As I said, it was a much needed attitude adjustment. Further reflections to follow.

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