This past Sunday the Community at Deer Park opened our annual 90 day Winter Retreat. This is a traditional retreat that has continued from the time of the Buddha 2,600 years ago. On Saturday evening we counted everyone making the commitment to stay and practice at Deer Park for the full retreat. We have a total of 48 practitioners dwelling here (16 monks, 21 nuns and 11 lay friends). The ceremony on Sunday included taking refuge in each other to offer support and solidity to each other during this time of study and practice. An important aspect of this retreat is that we stay in the monastery. The only trips out are for necessary service to the community and health reasons.
Last year our Teacher strongly encouraged us to set up boundaries also regarding internet use. For myself this is the last post for the coming 3 months and I will not log into Facebook or Twitter. These boundaries open up more time and space to learn to live here and now with the people right in front of me. For me it is also an unique opportunity to continue my practice of Earth Holding, to sit under a tree more often, so enjoy the rising sun on the mountain, to contemplate all the gifts that Mother Earth is offering me. This retreat is not about retreating from what I find most important, but rather to stop, continue to heal and to look deeply in order for my actions (thinking, speaking and bodily action) to be more helpful year by year.
A while back a good friend asked me if I could recommend some practices for him for this period. He has participated and benefited from several Winter Retreats at our monasteries in the past, but as a husband and business owner does not have the conditions to practice here. I came up with some points. What made me happy is that he not only committed to practice, but he reached out to many friends and asked them if anyone would like to join him in his commitment. Sometimes we are in our track and we feel that we need to keep going. To take a moment to stop and reflect if there is anything important that we are overlooking might be difficult. This is why we need kind friends on our spiritual path and on our path of service. If you find any of these points relevant and helpful to you, feel free to put them into practice.
- 6 days a week 45 minutes silent sitting
- 6 times a week silent meal 10 minutes
- 3 days a week read out loud a chapter from Touching the Earth, 46 Guided Meditations for Mindfulness Practice
- 3 times a month practice with a local meditation group
- 3 times a month participate in a Day of Mindfulness at Deer Park (or another practice center close to you, if this is not an option you can organize half a day of practice at home instead)
- 1 day each week with no work
We breathe and walk on this precious planet together. Life is a wonder and precious gift. When we receive it we have more then enough and there is plenty to share. A friend on the path – Brother Protection