A Personal Report of the Two-day “Spiritual Health” Chan Retreat

Over the past eight months, I’ve been busy with relocating, decorating new home, and entertaining visiting friends and relatives, as well as familiarizing myself with the new neighborhood and possible routes to avoid traffic jam. Meanwhile, as I’m just starting my own business, new challenges keep emerging almost every day. To put it nicely, I am learning by living, and living by learning; but to put it frankly, my nerves are on edge.

During this period of time, a desire in me to escape from the busy, bustling urban life has grown all the more intense. So I decided to attend the two-day Chan retreat organized by Dharma Drum Mountain, which is always so considerate for practitioners by running the event on weekends.

With the shuttle bus ride that temporarily took me away from the “polluted” mundane world, I was chuckling inwardly, feeling relieved. Coming up at 7: 30 a.m., enchanted by the lightly blue sky decorated with bright orange clouds, my mind smiled.

As soon as we arrived at Chin Swee Caves Temple, we had to hand in our valuables, cell phones, and watches to the volunteers and they would keep them safe for us. So, we were required to “live off the grid”.

The course was mainly composed of sitting and moving meditation sessions, all conducted in silence, which allowed me to immediately sense the magic atmosphere created by the power of group practice in the Chan hall. Through Master Sheng Yen’s Dharma talk, participants gained a clear understanding about the correct methods of and mindset for Chan practice, as well as its realization in daily life. Master Sheng Yen explained the Dharma in plain yet profound words, and that helped us grasp the essence of Chan practice as a beginner. “Learn to do unfamiliar tasks, and repeatedly do the simple tasks.” The statement serves to remind me that “See! It’s not a big deal to face the problem,” “Nothing can really disturb and trouble me,” and “Being present always brings me joy.”

On the second morning, I started my first experience in outdoor walking meditation. By paying attention to every step I walked, I was clearly aware of the sensation of my feet in motion, relaxing my whole body while walking on the open space at 5 am in the early morning. With breeze blowing on face, I took a deep breath to feel its existence at the tip of my nose. Birds chirped in the jungle, while train whistles reached our ears from far away yet sounded so close. Then, I realized that every moment is wonderful when I can live in the present with myself.

When it came to walking meditation holding a bowl almost full of water, directing my concentration into maintaining its stability resembled reigning over my trembling mind. The more I tried to adjust my steps and keep my hands steady, the more I felt uncertain. So, at the end, I simply relaxed my shoulders, my body, and followed a slow yet steady pace. Then, all of a sudden, the water instead rippled peacefully, in rhythm with the walking movement.

Although ordinary and still lacking in practice, I’ve never given up the aspiration to achieve calm and ease of mind. The two-day Chan retreat empowered me to keep moving forward and inspired me more on my daily practice of Chan. Chan teachings can definitely help transform my defiled mind into an inner pure land.

I am all grateful for every cause and condition that have guided and developed me.

(by Chen Yanxing)

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