Saturday, January 9, 2010

What I Learned On My 9-Day Meditation Retreat


Part One:

“Oh Boy! I’ve been looking forward to this for months now—nine days of silence and sitting in meditation in ‘Friendship House,’ wrapped up in my soft maroon throw, with a crackling fire sending warm welcoming rays toward me from the corner fireplace at the end of this hall filled with angels.

Arriving at Questhaven on the day after Christmas, Linda and I settled into our comfortable and familiar lodgings in “Casa Contenta,” this roomy double-wide manufactured house with two bedrooms and baths and a large living room with kitchen and dining area, all the comforts of home. It was our turn to get the master bedroom with its own bath. Our friends and house-mates, the Butchers, graciously deferred and took the smaller bedroom with only a double bed, which was to be a life-saver for me as it turned out, in view of what the week had in store.


The schedule for the week was to be full but fairly relaxed, for a meditation retreat: Up at six for 2 hours of sitting in meditation before breakfast, followed by a break and a 9:30 short talk, then more meditation, combined with small group reporting sessions to share our sitting experiences with a teacher and receive feedback to help us in our meditation practice. After lunch and a break for rest or walks on one of the beautiful trails on this several hundred acre property in the coastal mountains of San Diego County, we would gather for an hour talk by the lead teacher, Jason Siff, a little time for questions, then more sitting until 5, and then a break before dinner, usually spent horizontally in our rooms, unless we had signed up for dinner prep, one of the many jobs the 20 of us would take on to help the retreat run smoothly. Evenings would start with a meditation period followed by an open discussion and end with one of Jason’s “bedtime stories,” most often a reading from his novel, King Bimbisara’s Chronicler. We would then be ready for bed by 10 p.m. and up for the same routine the following morning—for eight full days.

As I said, I was really looking forward to the retreat, a perfect way to transist from one year to the next, in silence for the most part, and in this beautiful green hill country setting. The first evening after an opening orientation and meditation we had our first vegetarian dinner, which was to be the fare for the whole week, prepared by Sandy, a gourmet vegetarian cook, who gave us combinations of grains and vegetables, many of which I had never heard. All was going as I had anticipated! After the first evening’s talk, meditation and bedtime story, we were tucked in our king-size bed by 10, ready for a wonder-filled week.

So much for anticipation . . .

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