Browsing Category "Retreats"
6 Mar
Posted in: Retreats
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How about doing something Extra-Ordinary….as in: I Cannot Stop Talking About My Upcoming Extra-Ordinary Accomplishment–A Three Day Silent Retreat. (Illustration by Maira Kalman,, Oct. 2013. Click on image to enlarge)

Maira writes:
* I manage to insert it into every conversation I have. “I’d like half a pound of sliced turkey…I’m going on a silent retreat…and a half a pound of potato salad. Thank you.”
* What will we do? NOT TALK. Which has its BIG PLUSSES. No worries about saying something stupid every five minutes. We will do some menial tasks. (I love this part.)
* And we will meditate A LOT. To tell the truth, I am wary of meditating all day long.
* What demons lurk inside me that I would rather NOT encounter? For me, most revelations end with “I am horrible,” and who needs it?
* What to bring? NOTHING. No cameras, notebooks, pens, books. No nothing. This sounds terrifyingly boring (and interesting). Where will silence take me? I have no idea. Which is the point. I think.


Want to see where silence will take you?

Mid-America Dharma is offering an excellent opportunity at the 3-day silent retreat taught by Gloria Taranyia Ambrosia here in St. Louis, May 7-10. (For more information, click here.)

Come see for yourself. It will definitely not be an ordinary accomplishment.

10 Feb
Posted in: Food, Retreats
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Conscious Cooking

One of the big things I miss when I come home from retreat is having all my meals cooked for me. There’s no shopping, no cooking, no need to even think about what I’m going to have for dinner. The food on retreat is (almost) always really good. Not fancy. But fresh and flavorful. (There have been some significant exceptions to this rule, but I won’t go into those here.)

At Dharmagiri we had fresh-baked bread everyday and lots of roast vegetables (especially butternut squash, beets, corn and carrots), frittatas, soups, curries with chutney, and delicious fruit salads (mango, pineapple, peach, banana and grapes with avocado and pumpkin seeds was my favorite).

I obviously couldn’t bring the Dharmagiri cook home with me, but I did notice that there was one particular cookbook out and open on the kitchen counter… Retreat: The Joy of Conscious Eating, by Daniel Jardim….and I’m thinking that maybe having the cookbook will inspire my non-retreat meals to be more retreat-like.

I’ve ordered the book. I’ll keep you posted.

9 Feb
Posted in: Retreats, Travel
By    Comments Off on Postcards from Sacred Mountain (Dharmagiri)

Postcards from Sacred Mountain (Dharmagiri)

I’m back from the month-long retreat at Dharmagiri in South Africa and (almost) over the jet-lag. (It’s a 16 1/2 hour flight just from Jo’burg to Atlanta!) I didn’t take a lot of photos — this wasn’t a sight-seeing trip like last year in Burma —  but I did at least “document” the retreat center.

This is the group of retreatants. That’s me, with the pink-streaked hair, standing behind teacher Kittisaro (short guy, wearing a hat). Thanissara, his wife and c0-teacher, is standing in the back (with glasses and dark hair).









This is the meditation hall, with breezeway leading to the kitchen/dining hall.








These are some of the cabins for retreatants. The center can house 12. My room (with private bath) is the second from the left.








This is my room.










This is the view from my window.










This is the main house, where Kittisaro and Thanissara live.










This is the Dharmagiri “office.”








This is a small meditation hut where I often sat (and behind which I watched a troop of several dozen baboons playing and fighting and strolling from one side of the mountain to the other!)


5 Nov
Posted in: Retreats
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Extraordinary Accomplishments

I’m leaving tomorrow morning for another 3-day retreat at Flowering Lotus and then my friend Dolores (the founder of Flowering Lotus) and I will drive together to attend a 7-day retreat outside of Nashville, and then we’ll head back here to St. Louis for a visit to the Chan Monastery in Augusta, Missouri (MABA). So I won’t be posting again until after Wednesday, Nov 19th.

In the mean time, I leave you with this art piece by Maira Kalman, from the Oct 2013 issue of Mindful magazine. (click on the image to enlarge)

It reads:

I cannot stop talking. About my upcoming extraordinary accomplishment — a three day silent retreat. 

I manage to insert it into every conversation I have. “I’d like half a pound of sliced turkey, I’m going on a silent retreat, and half a pound of potato salad, Thank you.”

What will we do? Not talk. Which has its big plusses. No worries about saying something stupid every five minutes. We will do some menial tasks. (I love this part.)

And we will meditate a lot. To tell the truth, I am wary of meditating all day long.

What demons lurk inside me that I would rather not encounter? For me, most revelations end with “I am horrible.” Who needs it?

What to bring? Nothing. No camera, notebooks, pens, books. No nothing. This sounds terribly boring (and interesting). Where will silence take me? I have no idea. Which is the point. I think. 

20 Oct
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on Instead of 1,000 Words

Instead of 1,000 Words

I’m back from the retreat at Flowering Lotus, but not quite ready to start writing again. So instead, I’ll just share this photo (worth, I hope, a thousand words), taken on the last day of the retreat. (Click to enlarge.)

I had a wonderful time. Wish you were there.

9 Oct
Posted in: Retreats
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I’m leaving early tomorrow morning to attend a retreat led by Baptist-Preacher-turned-Buddhist-Nun, Venerable Pannavati at Flowering Lotus Retreat Center in Magnolia, Mississippi. I haven’t sat a retreat with her before, but I’ve heard her speak, and honey…..she’s a hoot!

But she’s also a Ph.D, and an ordained nun in both the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, as well as the co-founder and co-Abbot of Embracing Simplicity Hermitage in Hendersonville, NC. She’s organized full ordination for female monastics in Cambodia and Thailand; runs a residential, non-profit, job-training gluten-free bakery for homeless youth in North Carolina; supports 10 “untouchable” villages in India; and more. So, basically, she’s just pretty awesome. (Check out her website here.)

I’ll get back from retreat on Oct 17, but it will take me a while to get back to “normal.” So check back here on Monday, Oct 20 for my next post.


28 Aug
Posted in: Retreats, Travel
By    Comments Off on First Burma, Now Africa!

First Burma, Now Africa!

I’m off the wait list and I’ve sent in my deposit, so it’s official: I’m going to Africa! In January I’ll be attending a month-long retreat led by Kittisaro and Thanissara at Dharmagiri Hermitage, a 3-hour bus ride from Durbin, South Africa (which is in the southeast part of the country, on the Indian Ocean coast).

There’s no VISA required, and no need for shots or malaria meds. And there’s a direct flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, so really, this is going to be a lot easier than the trip to Burma. Still pretty exotic, though!

The plan right now is to fly from St. Louis to Atlanta (an hour and a half flight), then onto Johannesburg (15 hours), then spend the night and a day getting un-jetlagged, then fly to Durbin (3 hours), then take the bus to Dharmagiri (3 hours). The retreat starts at 7pm on January 6 and ends at 7am on February 2.

In between, there will be 2 weeks of practice in the Theravada tradition followed by 2 weeks in Mahayana. The first part will be pretty much a regular Spirit Rock-type vipassana retreat, but the second part sounds quite different.

The website says the Mahayana practice will focus on the Bodhisattva Way through the cultivation of the Kuan Yin Dharmas. The Bodhisattva heart balances the “letting go” practices of Theravada with “picking up” a skillful and compassionate relationship to the world. The archetype of compassionate wisdom in Mahayana is the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Khan Yin), the “One Who Regards the Sounds of the World with Ease.”

The two dimension of Kuan Yin Dharma we will practice:
* The cultivation of a “field of blessings”  through the focus of mind using mantra, ceremony and the reality of profound inter-connectedness within the immanence of awareness.
* The “investigation of emptiness,” through the Chan practice of “turning the mind back” onto itself, which is also resonant with the non-dual approach of Zen, Vedanta and Self Inquiry.


27 Aug
Posted in: Retreats
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Gladdening the Mind

I’m back now from the 10-day Concentration Retreat at Spirit Rock (which was difficult and wonderful) and which has left me with a deep sense of gratitude for the Buddha’s teachings and a profound sense of respect — and love — for the teachers (especially Phillip Moffitt) whose kindness and generosity, not to mention wisdom, patience and good humor, was a gift beyond compare.

The talks from the retreat are available on DharmaSeed. (Click here.) They’re all wonderful, but for something really special, listen to Phillip’s talk on The Variety of Samahdi Experience, which includes a 10-minute guided meditation on Gladdening the Mind (beginning at about 55 minutes into the talk).


14 Aug
Posted in: Retreats
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Before the Ecstasy…

I’m leaving early tomorrow morning to attend a 10-day Concentration Retreat at Spirit Rock, which I am very much looking forward to, but right now, it’s the laundry (and the packing and all the other getting-ready activities) that I’m focusing on right now.

I won’t be posting again until I return, so check back again sometime after Aug. 26. 

In the mean time, I leave you with this quote from the Dhammapada, by Joseph Goldstein, from his book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening.

“About this mind…in truth it isn’t really anything. It’s just a phenomenon. Within itself it’s already peaceful. That the mind is not peaceful these days is because it follows moods….

“Sense impressions come and trick it into happiness, suffering, gladness and sorrow, but the mind’s true nature is none of those things. That gladness or sadness is not the mind, but only a mode coming to decide us. The untrained mind gets lost and follows these things, it forgets itself, then we think that it is we who are upset or at ease or whatever. But really this mind of ours is already unmoving and peaceful…

“Our practice is simply to see the Original Mind. So we must train the mind to know those sense impressions, and not get lost in them. To make it peaceful. Just this is the aim of all this difficult practice we put ourselves through.”

21 Jul
Posted in: Retreats, Teachers
By    Comments Off on Learning Meditation at Monsanto

Learning Meditation at Monsanto

I listen to a lot of Dharma Seed talks, but this was the first time I’d ever heard one where someone in the audience mention me! Not by name. But still. It was weird.

The talk was given by Diana Winston (you can listen to it here). I don’t know Diana, but I have met her once, at one of the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP) retreats. So I decided to send her an email. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Diana,

I was listening to one of your recent talks on Dharma Seed (12 Myths of Mindfulness) and I heard you tell the audience that Mindfulness Meditation had been taught at Monsanto, which of course was a shock to most people, but then someone said that there were a couple of people in the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP5) who had been in that program at Monsanto. Actually, to the best of my knowledge, there was only one person in the DPP5 program who had been at Monsanto, and that person is me.

I just wanted to let you know that the Insight Meditation program taught at Monsanto (that’s what they called it in 1998) was amazing. And for me, at least, life changing. Mirabai Bush and Steven Smith were the teachers. It was a 3-day silent retreat, held at the Fetzer Institute, and it was offered to anyone in the Monsanto organization — no matter what job, or at what level. The cost came out of CEO Bob Shapiro’s “discretionary” funds (which meant that your department didn’t have to pay for it) and it was time off in the middle of the week that couldn’t be counted against your vacation, and that your supervisor couldn’t say no to, no mater how much work there was to do. (It was simply Bob’s gift to each of us. A gift for which I will forever be grateful.)

It wasn’t offered as a way to make more money, or to be a better employee or anything like that. It was presented as a way to allow us to have “insight.” The announcement didn’t say exactly what kind of “insight.” That was left for us to decide for ourself. But what they offered was a straight-up vipassana-style sitting/walking/eating/etc meditation retreat. Plus one guided Metta meditation at the end. 

I had never done anything like it before. I didn’t have any particular reason for going, except that it sounded interesting and I was curious to see what it would be like to spend 3 days in silence.

But I could tell from the very beginning that there was something really special about Mirabai. I couldn’t have articulated it then, but looking back on it, I believe it was her rare combination of selfless confidence and undefended, unrestricted friendliness that I was so drawn to. At the end of the retreat, after the last meditation (metta), I couldn’t stop crying. I was so deeply touched by the possibility of a vast, unlimited field of unconditional kindness….and the realization that I had somehow always felt cut off even from the possibility of such kindness…that I simply could not “snap back” into my corporate persona. So I just cried.

There is more to tell, but I will leave it at that.

I just wanted you to know something of what it was like to have been introduced to meditation at Monsanto.

May you be well, safe and happy,
Jan Rosamond