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Be open, relax and smile

Three very simple instructions given to us by Venerable Guo Jun became the focus of the forthcoming retreat days. But what do they mean, and how do we apply this? Do we just flop onto the sitting cushion and grin for seven days?

This November and December, 25 people made the DDM road trip down to Wingello, 90 minutes south of Sydney,Australia,for combined three and seven day meditation retreat. For many of us, this would be the first time we would attempt to let go of everyday habits and indulgences. It was also an opportunity to help cultivate good habits and perhaps deepen our experience in practice.

As many retreatants also participated in Meditation and regular group practice sessions on Sundays, most understood some of the physical discomforts that will visit them at the retreat, such as leg pain, back pain, shivers, occasional struggle to stay awake, sweats and allergies and other physical complaints, tailored to the individual retreatant.

But there was a lot more to the retreat than physical discomfort, following a set schedule and living in a beautiful, tranquil venue. A local wallaby nursed her joey near the Chan centre each morning, birds sang and retreatants enjoyed the privilege of using fresh herbs and fruits which grow on this property. Under these conditions, retreatants practiced different forms of meditations (sitting, walking, eight form moving, eating) whilst reminding themselves to remain open, relax and smile:

To be open and aware of the sensations that arise, but not to dwell or go with the wandering thoughts;
To relax into the method, be mindful without straining or exerting force on ourselves;

To smile, and to let the smile remind us of compassion to ourselves and others when we feel vexed, and allow the smile to naturally come through from within.
Venerable likened meditation to climbing a mountain. When climbing a mountain, the climber is not on a smooth upward climb. Sometimes the climber may have to travel downwards and lose some altitude in order to reach the path that lead towards the summit. Meditation practice is similar. A practitioner should not expect the path to enlightenment to be a steady uphill climb.

Venerable reminded us that some sitting sessions will feel very easy, and others will not be, so one should not judge the depth of their practice or level of attainment by comparing different meditation sessions or feel deterred from practicing at all because they fear they are not making progress. Simply be open and relax into the present moment, and smile.

Retreatants were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences with each other at the end of the retreat. Many found that they felt a lot more relaxed and became more aware of parts of themselves they were not aware of previously. One even drew a comic to convey his experience.

You can read about their experiences on www.ddm.org.au under "Reflections".

(by DDM Australia)

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