Browsing Category "Retreats"
28 Mar
Posted in: Books, Practice, Retreats
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A Peek at a Retreat

Last year, artist Maira Kalman sat her first ever silent retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, MA) and produced a series of illustrations about her experience, which appeared over several months in Mindful Magazine.

Here’s the first installment. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

5 Dec
Posted in: Retreats
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Spirit Rock TV

Spirit Rock is now offering Live Video Streaming of some of their more popular one-day events! There is a cost, and registration is required, but it’s MUCH cheaper than flying out to California! Also, a link to the recorded video will be available for 90 days to webcast registrants, so even if you’re not available on the day of the event, you can still “attend.”

I’ll be posting information about each of these webcasts on the Dharma Town Coming Attractions page, but for a quick overview, here’s the list:

Three Levels of Knowing with Phillip Moffitt on Saturday, December 14. Click here for more info.

Brainstorm: Discovering the Hidden Power & Purpose of the Adolescent Mind with Dan Siegel on Saturday, January 25.

Real Happiness at Work with Sharon Salzberg on Saturday, February 1.

Awakening the Buddha Within: The Six Kinds of Mindfulness with Lama Surya Das on Sunday, February 16.

Equanimity: In the Dharma and In Your Brain with Rick Hanson on Sunday, March 30.

Insight Meditation Daylong with Jack Kornfield on Sunday, April 6.

Machig Labdron and the Nature of Mind with Lama Tsultrim Alion on Saturday, April 12.

Care Providers Daylong: A Day of Renewal, Recognition and Rejuvenation with Phillip Moffitt on Saturday, April 26.

(image from: A Whole World by Couprie and Louchard)

15 Nov
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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May All Relationships….

Another new (to me) practice that Phillip Moffitt offered at the Flowering Lotus retreat was Reconciliation Practice. We had already done Forgiveness Practice and Metta (Lovingkindness) Practice. The Reconciliation Practice, Phillip said, is particularly useful when Forgiveness seems too far out of reach.

Here’s what we did:

We sat in a circle, with our eyes closed, while Phillip said a phrase out loud. We then repeated that phrase, also out loud, in unison. Then he repeated it again and this time we also repeat it again — but in silence this time.

Then he said another phrase, and we followed in the same fashion.

Here were some of the phrases:

May all daughters and fathers be reconciled.

May all sons and mothers be reconciled.

May all daughters and mothers, sons and fathers be reconciled.

May all husbands and wives, partners and lovers, be reconciled.

May all brothers and sisters be reconciled.

May all communities be reconciled.

May all nations be reconciled.

May all people be reconciled. 


(image from “A Whole World,” by Couprie and Louchard)

13 Nov
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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Take Your Question for a Walk

One of the practices that Phillip Moffitt offered at the recent weekend retreat at Flowering Lotus was something he called: Taking Your Question for a Walk. I’d never heard of it before, but I was immediately drawn to it. Here’s how it goes:

Just like in regular walking practice, you find someplace to walk….it can be inside or out…a short path or hallway or whatever, of about 10-20 paces, where you can walk back and forth comfortably, without having to navigate around anything.

You stand at the beginning of the path and you ask your question three times (silently or out loud…however you like). This is not for small, casual questions like “should I go to Cancun or the Bahamas for vacation,” or “what color should I paint the bedroom”…although who knows, maybe it would help.

And it’s not really for big, abstract questions like “what is the Meaning of Life.” It’s more for open, but directed, near-term questions like “what can I do, in the next week or month, to ease the suffering in my life?” In fact, he suggested that very question if a different one didn’t naturally pop up.

So you stand at the beginning of the walking path, ask the question three times…then forget about it. Just walk — mindfully — paying attention to what it feels like to walk (the touch sensation of each foot as it comes into contact with the ground, for example, or the tightening and release of the muscles in the calves or thighs as they move through space). Don’t think about the question. Don’t look around at the scenery. Don’t plan what you’re going to have for dinner. Just feel what it feels like to walk.

Do this for 20 or 30 minutes. (When you do find yourself thinking about the question, or checking out the scenery, or planning to get take-out for dinner…just smile at yourself…and go back to the feel of your foot on the floor.)

Then when the 20 or 30 minutes is up: stop, and bow to the path.

And see what presents itself.

Maybe you will sense that something has shifted and you now have a very clear understanding of the new direction you need to be moving in. Or maybe a phrase or image will arise in your mind. Or a physical sensation. Or maybe it will seem like nothing at all has happened…until later, when you realize that somehow you have naturally starting doing things differently. Or maybe not.

Who knows.

It’s a mystery.

Check it out.


(image by Edward Gorey from “Gorey Creatures”)

12 Nov
Posted in: Retreats
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In Full Bloom

I don’t even know where to begin to tell you what an amazing thing it was to spend the weekend with a couple of sangha buddies from St. Louis, at a retreat lead by Phillip Moffitt, in the middle-of-nowhere Magnolia, Mississippi…where the Dharma is in full bloom!!!

This is the entrance hall to the Flowering Lotus Retreat Center, which was founded by my DPP buddy Dolores Watson. There are lots more photos on their website, but even these don’t do the place justice. The food was fantastic. The weather was perfect. And the teachings….especially in this lovely, intimate setting….were priceless.

I’ll post more later about some of the specific practices we were offered. But for today, I’ll leave you with this haiku, which Phillip quoted as an opening for the weekend:

The butterfly,
Even when pursued,
Never appears in a hurry. 

6 Nov
Posted in: Retreats
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Dharma Road Trip!

I’m leaving tomorrow morning with a couple of my Dancing with Life KM buddies to attend a weekend retreat with Phillip Moffitt — whose book we’ve been discussing for almost two years. The retreat is in Magnolia, Mississippi!!! (I’ll be back and posting again on Tuesday.)

We’ll be at lovely little center that my DPP friend, Dolores Watson, has founded. It’s called Flowering Lotus and it looks amazing. Intrigued by these photos? See more on their website here.



This is the mediation hall.







This is the guest house, called Joyfulness, where we’ll be staying.






Here’s a peek inside.







Here’s one of the bedrooms.










5 Nov
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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On the New Moon

At the retreat, we celebrated traditional observance days (Uposatha) by chanting the precepts on the New and Full Moons. In Buddhist countries around the world, people use these days (as well as the First and Third Quarter Moons) as a kind of Sabbath, by taking 8 Precepts (basically, not eating dinner…see yesterday’s post), or making special offering to monastics, staying up all night to meditate, or finding some other way to intensity their practice.

Before the retreat, I was already acknowledging these days by adding an extra sit/walk to my daily practice. But now that I’ve gotten a “taste” of what it’s like to observe 8 Precepts, I’ve decided to add that to my New and Full Moon practice as well.

Last Sunday, Nov 3, was a New Moon. So I didn’t eat after the mid-day meal (and didn’t go to the movies, lounge around in bed, or put on any make up or jewelry). And I sat long enough in the evening to listen to Dhammaruwan chant the Sattipatanna Sutta in Pali by sections (followed by Greg Sharf reading the English translation), which is what they’ve been doing back at IMS in the second 6 weeks of the retreat I just left. (You can find the tapes here.)

This New Moon observance was a beautiful way to feel connected to the yogis who I sat with for the last 6 weeks and who stayed at IMS to continue practicing for 6 more. And to all those others around the world who are practicing just like I am–with care and diligence…as best they are able.

4 Nov
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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On Not Eating Dinner

At the retreat, we had the option of practicing eight precepts instead of the usual five. The five precepts are are: (1) refraining from killing–even insects!, (2) refraining from taking that which is not freely given, (3) refraining from sexual activity, (4) refraining from incorrect speech–speech that is harmful, harsh, untimely, or not beneficial…not really a problem since the retreat is in silence, (5) refraining from taking intoxicants–alcohol or recreational drugs–that lead to carelessness.

The additional three are: (6) refraining from eating after the noon meal, (7) refraining from entertainment and beautifying the body with garlands, jewelry, cosmetics and perfumes (8) refraining from using high and luxurious seats and beds–basically so you don’t just lounge around in them all day.

Entertainment, beautification and luxurious beds are not really an issue on retreat. But not eating dinner–now that’s a stretch.

It’s not punitive, though. Or anything to do with deprivation or self mortification. It’s really about restraint. The idea is that you will feel lighter by not eating in the afternoon or evening, less sluggish and….freed from the need to eat and digest…more able to meditate.

So, instead of the light dinner of soup and bread that is usually served at the dinner hour, those who are following the eight precepts just drink fruit juice. And/or tea. (Which can include a little bit of milk.) Plus there’s hard candy available to help keep the blood sugar up.

But that’s it.

I hadn’t thought I would do it because really, skipping dinner seemed a bit of a stretch. But they served plenty of food at both breakfast and lunch. And soup every night for dinner didn’t sound that hard to give up. The bread, I thought, would be a challenge, but then I thought I’ve had plenty of bread in my lifetime….and I would have plenty more again in the future…so what the heck.

So I did it.

I was pretty worried about being hungry. Which I was–a few times. But being hungry is really not all that bad, I discovered. There’s pressure in the stomach area. Sometimes a cramping, twisting sensation. Sometimes a sharp little stab. But it comes and goes. It’s really not a problem….especially since taking the extra precepts was completely voluntary. (And since I knew I could eat as much as I wanted in the morning.)

And I did feel a bit lighter. Physically, yes, but mostly psychologically. Because letting go of eating dinner meant that I was free of having to “feed” that particular habit.

It was quite liberating!

1 Nov
Posted in: Retreats
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Sit. Walk. Laundry.

At the retreat, I spent a lot of time sitting on the cushion. And walking in the hall. And working in the laundry room!

Everyone gets a “yogi job,” and mine has almost always been chopping veggies or washing lettuce, which is normally something that’s done during the hour after breakfast. But this time my job was “kitchen laundry,” which meant that every morning, I had to take a trolley of about 2 loads of dish towels and wash cloths and aprons down to the basement in the building next to the kitchen, shake out the crumbs, and put the laundry into the washing machines. Then sweep up the crumbs, then bring the trolley back up the stairs and into the kitchen.

And then an hour later, I had to go back down and take the laundry out of the washers and put it into the dryers.

Then another hour later, back down to take everything out of the dryers and fold it all. Then take one load back up the stairs, into the kitchen, and put everything away where it belonged. Then back downstairs to get the second load. Then back to the kitchen. Then back to the laundry room to put the empty basket away.

And then do it all again the next day. Mindfully, of course.

For 43 days.

(Definitely advanced practice.)

31 Oct
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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A Great Way to End the Day

Every night of the retreat, at the end of the last sitting, we sang a Metta Chant known as Imaya Dhammanu (which is the first line of the chant and means “By this Practice.”) At first Guy Armstrong and then Bhante Buddharakkhita led the chant, but it soon became clear that one of the yogis (retreatants) had an amazingly beautiful voice, so they quickly turned the lead over to her. On the last night, they recorded us and I wish I could share it with you, but for privacy reasons, it’s only available to attendees. (You can probably google “Imaya Dhammanu chant” and find another recording of it somewhere.)

It was such a lovely way to end the evening that I’ve been chanting it here at home every night before going to bed. The chant is in Pali, but here’s what it means in English:

By this practice,
truly in accord with the Dhamma,

I honor the Buddha.
By this practice,
truly in accord with the Dhamma,
I honor the Dhamma.
By this practice,
truly in accord with the Dhamma,
I honor the Sangha.

May I be free from enmity/danger.
May I be free from mental suffering.
May I be free from physical suffering.
May I care for myself happily.

May my mother and father,
teacher, relatives, friends,
and fellow dhamma-farers
be free from enmity/danger,
be free from mental suffering
be free from physical suffering
and may they care for themselves happily.

May all yogis in this forest (place)
be free from enmity/danger,
be free from mental suffering,
be free from physical suffering,
and may they care for themselves happily.

May the guardian deities
of this abode
and this dwelling,
and may the guardian deities
of this forest
be free from enmity/danger,
be free from mental suffering
be free from physical suffering
and many they care for themselves happily.

May all beings,
all creatures,
all living things,
all people,
all beings with bodies,
all females,
all males,
all noble ones,
all who are not noble ones,
all deities,
all humans,
all those in unhappy states,
be free from enmity/danger,
be free from mental suffering,
be free from physical suffering,
and many they care for themselves happily.

May they be free from suffering,
enjoy safety and abundance,
and have kamma as their true property.
May our merit be shared
with all beings.

Well spoken, well spoken, well spoken.