Browsing Category "Retreats"
27 Feb
Posted in: Retreats
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Conditions Change

All conditioned things are impermanent.

On that note, here are a few more photos from the retreat, which was held at the C.O.D. ranch in Oracle, Arizona, about 35 miles north of Tucson. (If you ever get a chance to go there…do it!)





























































26 Feb
Posted in: Retreats
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On the Path

Our retreat schedule followed the standard format of alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation, but the teachers also strongly encouraged us to take at least one sitting-plus-walking period each day to go out into the desert (the ranch is right next to a state park), or to hike the beautiful trail on the ranch itself, which leads up the mountain, between the rocks and prickly pear, through the mesquite, and the “shin-daggers” and pine.

This is me, heading out.










This is the state park.








This is me, after the walk.










Then conditions changed…










And the cactus was covered in snow!



25 Feb
Posted in: Retreats
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A Seat of One’s Own

I’m back from retreat, which was totally AWESOME. I’ll say more about that later, but in the mean time, take a peek:
















































































14 Feb
Posted in: Retreats
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Back on Feb 25

I’m leaving tomorrow morning to attend a 5-day retreat led by my DPP mentoring teacher, Lila Kate Wheeler, and Eric Kolvig. The title of the retreat is Developing Spiritual Strengths (The Majesty of the Heart) and it’s being held at COD Ranch, 37 miles north of Tucson.

I’ve worked with Lila over the phone and by email for years, talking for at least an hour every month, but I’ve only sat one retreat with her — the one where I first met her, at IMS, way back in 2009. Seems crazy now that I think of it. But that’s how it is.

So, as you can imagine, I’m very excited to be going on this retreat. (Not to mention the fact that it’s Tucson…in February.)

But I’ll be back.

And with stories to tell, I’m sure.

Look for my next post on Monday, Feb 25.

(image: main house at COD Ranch)

21 Nov
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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Dharma Buddies

At the retreat, one of the teachers (Anushka Fernandopulle) mentioned that early in her dharma life, she decided to take on the practice of reading one sutta every day. There are LOTS of suttas (teachings)….152 in the Middle Length Discourses alone…so I’m sure it’s a many-year practice, but somehow the idea really inspired me and I decided to do the same thing.

Our primary text for the Dedicated Practitioner Program is The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikaya), translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, so I’ve started with that. (Bhikkhu Bodhi, by the way, was at the retreat! Which I think was part of the reason I was so inspired.)

We’ve already read quite a few of these suttas (the Satipatthana Sutta was the subject of one entire retreat) but reading ALL of them, one by one, day after day…that’s a whole other thing.

Luckily, one of my DPP Dharma Buddies ALSO decided to take on the practice.

I’ve just finished reading #9. These teachings were orally transmitted for the first several hundred years, so they’re formulaic and repetitive to say the least.

But there’s also something profound about the form….and the pace.

I feel grateful to have found this path and to be on this journey.

Still, it’s good not to be going it alone.

(image from Danielle and Olivier Follmi)



20 Nov
Posted in: Retreats
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I think it’s fascinating to see all the different ways people try to make themselves comfortable in the meditation hall. Here are a few examples. (My own is included.)


























































































19 Nov
Posted in: Retreats
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Room with a View

Hey there! I’m back from retreat at Spirit Rock and have MUCH to say, but it will have to wait till I get caught up with emails. In the mean time, I leave you with a peek into the meditation hall.

Here’s a view looking toward the front.








Here’s a view looking across, toward the back.








And here’s a view from the floor…..looking up!










I’ll post more tomorrow. Stay tuned.



6 Nov
Posted in: Retreats
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Back on Monday, Nov 19

I’m on my way to Spirit Rock for the next Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP) retreat and then to spend a few days with Dharma friends I’ve met through the program. The DPP teachings are awesome, but I’m finding that the real jewel of the program is the connection with fellow practitioners.

This will be the 4th of 5 retreats. We started in May of 2011, and will finish in May 0f 2013. I’ll be sad to see it end. But, actually, this is just the beginning.

I’ll be back in DharmaTown on Monday, Nov. 19. In the mean time, I leave you with this photo by staffer, Walt Opie, taken from the courtyard in front of the Spirit Rock meditation hall. I’ll be standing at exactly this spot quite often over the next several days. Wishing, in gladness and in safety: May all beings be at ease.

This photo is available to download as wallpaper for your computer desktop by clicking here.

26 Oct
Posted in: Retreats
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What To Do

I think the most meaningful practice we did at the retreat last weekend was to walk the labyrinth. We did it in a group–in silence–each of us forming a question for reflection as we entered the mandala.

My question…I thought….had to do with earning a living. But right away it became clear that the real question was: What is my work? And when the answer came right away–that my real work is to follow the path–then all the other what-should-I-do’s just fell away. Because when I see that my work is to follow the path, then the only thing I need to do, is to take the next step. Not the step that’s three steps ahead of me. The next step. The one that’s right there in front of me. That’s the step I need to take. And since I’m on a path that’s clear and well defined, there’s really no decisions that need to be made. Just follow the path. And keep moving.

It sounds simplistic. Cliched. “One-Day-At-A-Time,” and all that. But walking the labyrinth, just inches behind the person in front of me, continually moving, listening, breathing….I “got” it in a way that I don’t think I would have, any other way.

So now I know what to do:

Stay on path.

Take the next step.

24 Oct
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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What Is Alive

One of the contemplative practices we did at the retreat was a free-writing exercise, which began with this prompt: What is alive for me in this moment is.... We wrote for several minutes starting with that. Then we were asked to choose a sentence from what we’d just written, and use that as a prompt.

What was alive for me in the beginning was a sense of joy and appreciation. I wrote a lot about being happy to see Mirabai, about being able to speak Italian with one of the participants, the beauty of the room, the light, the wood, the stained glass windows, but then I wrote: There is a sharp, bright, pain-point in my knee, which is also alive.

And for some reason, that’s the sentence I chose to use as the prompt for the second part. I wrote:

There is a sharp, bright, pain-point in my knee, which is also alive. But it does not overwhelm me. It breathes, but it does not consume all the air in my mind. It comes. And it goes. It disturbs me sometimes. Frightens me, even.


Death is behind the mask of this pain. No, not exactly death. Growing-Old is it’s name. I get afraid of it. Of it changing me. Making me unable to walk up the stairs without wincing. Unable to sit on the floor…or to get back up.

But fear is not alone at the door. There is also Joy — luminous, glowing, radiant, lighting the way for the others who stand sweating and itchy under their masks. All are holding bowls. They are asking for candy. Wanting to frighten me. Or enchant. They say: Here we are. Feed us.

I must open the door.

But I can choose whom to feed.

All may come in.

All are welcome to leave. 


(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)