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A DDM 7-Day Chan Retreat in Sydney

Sydney DDM held its first 7-Day Chan Retreat at Grose Vale from 29 November to 6 December 2006 under the superb guidance of Guo Yuan Fashi and Chang Wen Fashi.

The retreat was attended by eighteen people including three youth volunteers.

Throughout the entire retreat, we had to maintain noble silence and refrain from talking to other people and even to ourselves. Despite the excruciating pains in the legs, the rushing torrents of wandering thoughts and extreme tiredness and drowsiness, all participants expressed gratitude for the teaching and had benefited tremendously from the Dharma talks, sitting mediations, walking meditations, repentance prostrations, gratitude prostrations and interviews.

Into the fourth day of the retreat, life became more bearable as we followed fashi's teaching of "give your body to the cushion and give your mind to the method". Guo Yuan Fashi reiterated that regardless of a good or bad sitting, "the process is the goal". Fashi also explained that when we watch our breath, we should look at every breath as a new breath and live in the present moment.

During the outdoor walking meditation, we had to practise mindfulness and not let ourselves be distracted by the external environment. With much difficulty we eventually learned to offer ourselves as dana to the mosquitoes and to co-exist with the flies that are notoriously infamous in the hot summer in Australia. They were buzzing around and landing on our faces, noses, ears, mouths, and eyes. One participant described the experience as, "Whilst the flies are enjoying their morning and afternoon tea on my face, I take it as a free facial massage, so it's not a bad deal!"

On the last day of the retreat, participants shared their journey of self-discovery. Some found the retreat to be a truly transformative experience. Others expressed that they have come to understand themselves better, become more humble and more at peace with themselves. In a nutshell, we learned to bring our mind to be with the body, swim against the downward stream and that with a Chan mind, anything is possible.

(By Agnes Chow in Sydney)

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