It is a sweet opportunity and gift from my lovely wife and partner. Thank you. Every time I plan and attend a retreat, a few questions arise from friends. Where are you going? What is it like? Is it silent?
I leave Friday morning for Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, a Buddhist monastery in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. The monastery sits on about 300 acres of open land next to another preserve. Very beautiful. I typically spend 4-6 weeks per year at the monastery as an ordained member of the Order of Interbeing (we’re asked to do 60 Days of Mindfulness per year). This particular visit is different because the first 19 days will be without my family. We usually go as a family but Leslie suggested some time for myself and they will come at the end for the Family Camp Annual Retreat.
During my stay at the monastery, there will be two formal retreats: Teen Camp Annual Retreat and the Family Camp Annual Retreat. As a guest of the monastery and an Order member, I will assist with both these retreats by leading discussions, demonstrating practice, working in the kitchen, playing with children, hiking, etc. The other days I will participate in the regular activities of the monastery. Typically we start the day at 5:00am with the wake-up bell. Sitting meditation is at 5:45 followed by breakfast at 7:30am. From lights out (10:00pm) until after breakfast we practice noble silence. During the day we do working meditation, walking meditation, maybe a dharma talk or discussion, and another period of sitting mediation in the evening. It’s quite pleasant and peaceful with a very slow pace. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. One of my favorite parts of the day is eating mediation; most meals consist of at least 20-minutes of silent eating and we always eat together as a sangha.
For those of you who know me, I am a HUGE technology user (even teach a class on Social Networking and Social Media) so going to a monastery has an impact on my connectivity. In the past, I have practiced at the monastery without any technology – no cell phone, no SMS, no email, no web, no Twitter, no Facebook, etc. Occassionaly I will work on the monastic computers but have refrained from accessing my various accounts. It is a great way to step away from it all and be with nature and be with myself. I find it very nurturing.
You may have noticed that I wrote “in the past” in the previous paragraph. I am considering offering something small each day of the retreat. Perhaps a picture using momentile (which will populate to my Twitter, Friendfeed, and Facebook accounts). If I choose to do this, it would be 1-way only – no reading comments, etc. I can use my iPhone to take the picture and email it from the camera app. Naturally, this is a risk and not completely letting go of technology for the time of the visit. No decision yet.
Regardless of what I decide, the 24-days away from my regular (family) practice in Ojai should be a joyful and nourishing time. I am thankful for the opportunity. Perhaps I will see some of you there during my visit? If you are considering anything, try the Family Retreat. All are welcome and much of the practice is nonsectarian.
Talk to you in July.