Reflection on Retreat in DDM Vancouver Center

It’s been three days since the retreat ended. I’m on a plane to Toronto, soon off to visit relatives and then to DDRC for the Time Keepers class and the Meditation teachers course. My wonderful wife is beside me. She was on the retreat as well. She’s meditating and I’m typing.

I could go on about the retreat itself; the fantastic teacher, the great food, the wonderful volunteers. I could talk about what I learned there about my sitting, about the dharma. In short I could write about all the things others write about, and in a sense I have....just now. All the above is true. But from my perspective, here on this plane 2 days later, something much more important comes to mind.

Our teacher on this retreat, Guo Gu, was a monastic much of his life. Presently he lives in the world and teaches university in Florida. He told of leaving monastic life and looking for work. Dealing with the real world was like the beginning of practice for him. It’s one thing to be peaceful calm in a controlled environment, but the real challenge is facing the chaos of the world as it is,

Leaving retreat is, on a smaller scale, in a shorter time frame, akin to our teacher’s entry into the world after monastic life. The world truly is chaotic and upside down and the challenge is applying what we have learned, in the shelter of retreat, to this world of chaos. In this retreat I hit a new level of relaxation and a new depth of sharpness and clarity in my sitting. I fully expected, as has been the case in the past, that this effect would slowly diminish over the days following the retreat and level off in my day to day life at a reduced level. This is, at some level happening, but this time there is a twist.

One of the techniques Guo Gu taught us, among many (as an aside the retreat was chock full of detailed and systematic information on practice), was something he called New York Chan or One Minute Chan. He recommended that at least 5 times a day, just before doing something familiar, go through a quick systematic body relaxation. Once relaxed, check in on your state of mind. Feel it and then adjust it, using the peace felt in your body as a template for your attitude. Then continue with your task mindfully.

This has been both an eye opening practice and a wonderful way of bringing my retreat experience into the rest of my life. As a result of this simple practice I am finding out a myriad of things about myself and my relations with all around me. I’m seeing a marked and gradually strengthening improvement in my efficiency, attitude and overall mood.

I’d like to thank Guo Gu for an impressive, informative, and effective retreat. I hope we can convince him to return next year; maybe for two retreats! One in Mandarin and one in English!

Written by: Tom Kaczmarski
Photos: DDM Vancouver Center More info about DDM Vancouver

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