DDM Sydney Hosts 7-Day Chan Retreat
On Friday 21st to 28th March 2008, DDM Sydney held a first ever combined four and seven day beginner's meditation retreat at Karuna Sanctuary in the Blue Mountains. We learnt later that this center has been used for meditation practice by other groups before, which explained the peacefulness and tranquility immediately felt once we walked in.
Venerable Guo Yih and Venerable Guo Shie flew in especially from Taiwan and upon their arrival at the retreat center, got right into assessing the venue to ensure participants had the most comfortable environment for practice. Most retreatants were stuck in traffic as it was an Easter public holiday, so our minds were running around hundred miles per second, catching up with each other before the inevitable Noble Silence was due to be announced. Both Venerables had their work cut out for them, as they had the challenging task of winding the retreatants up into a calmer and more collected mind set ready for learning.
When the retreat officially began, the signals used during the retreat were explained to us together with the retreat rules and a run down of the schedule to be followed. In between sessions of sitting, walking, eating and exercise meditations, we were shown Dharma Talks given by Master Sheng Yen teaching and guiding us throughout the retreat. All of us felt the DVDs were very helpful and encouraging, especially having Venerable Guo Yih present to answer our questions during Q&A sessions.
By the second to third day into the retreat our chaotic mind began to get with the program, and everyone were more mindful of the present moment. The hours went by faster as the retreat went on while our bodies and minds were more at ease, letting things be just as they were, more mindful and more consideration for those we were sharing the space with. We were introduced to different types of prostrations as the week unfolded and by then our minds were more alert and receptive.
On the forth day, interviews began and the four day retreatants left to go home after some debriefing at a separate location. By now, most of us were practicing even more diligently knowing that we only have a few more days before the retreat ends so we tried our best to stay focus, use the method and put down wandering thoughts.
Next few days flew by quickly, and Venerable Guo Yih concluded the retreat with a sharing session in which both Venerables and participants shared with each other their retreat experience.
The retreat would not have gone so smoothly if it were not for our volunteers Ricky, Maya and Shirley who worked tirelessly in ensuring each of us were taken care of to every minute detail, not to mention the scrumptious breakfasts which they prepared every morning. Our lunches and dinners were catered by the center's kitchen staff and we are all very grateful for the thoughtfulness that went into every dish, the food not only looked great, but very nutritious and tasty too.
Thank you to all participants whose roles turned to shopper, removalist, storage and transportation specialists before and after the retreat, we are very lucky to have such dedicated people to help.
A huge thank you to our DDM Sydney Convener, Agnes Chow for organizing from beginning to end the retreat as she always does. Three cheers for her incredible multitasking skill to translate every Chinese word spoken by Venerable Guo Yih throughout the whole seven day into English, so that English speaking participants could receive the full benefit of the Chan retreat. Also, thank you to our DDM Sydney Vice President, Ricky for putting so much hard work in preparing and coordinating everything. Last but not least, many thanks to Venerable Guo Yih and Venerable Guo Shie for exhaustingly pulling out all the tricks from the Chan school, guiding us ceaselessly on how to cut through vexations, and pulling us up onto the shore of correct understanding.
(By Joyce Wong in Sydney)