A Day of Fun and Relaxation: One-Day Retreat at DDM Malaysia

A Day of Fun and Relaxation: One-Day Retreat at DDM Malaysia

Despite its ancient origins, the practice of mindfulness and Chan meditation has been quite the trend lately. With all this buzz, maybe you've found yourself wondering what exactly Chan is? One recent Dharma Drum retreat answered just that for a group of Chan practictioners in Malaysia.

On March 13, 2016, the Dharma Drum Mountain branch monastery in Malaysia held an event billed as “Relaxing and Having Fun on One-day Retreat." Two hundred thirty nine practitioners were in attendence to together experience the meaning of Chan. Ven. Chang-Tsao, the leader of this Chan retreat, gave a Dharma talk explaining the spirit of the retreat which could be summarized as follows: the purpose of Chan meditation is to better understand yourself and to be the master of your own body and mind. In doing so, one becomes calm and peaceful, experiencing joyfulness rather than opposition while facing all types of situations.

Under the guidance of four monastics, the practitioners had the opportunity to experience various activities exemplifying Chan meditation: the Eight-Form Moving Meditation, carrying a water bowl (Chan for Body), eating Chan (mindful eating), observing bodily sensations (Chan for Mind), and many more.

Before starting the Eight-Form Moving Meditation, Ven. Chang-Tsao (常藻法師) reminded retreatants that the essential principle of Chan meditation is “Wherever your body, so too is your mind." He continued, "As a practicioner of Chan, you must be very clearly aware of every move in every moment, and apply the least strength to complete your action.” The retreat practitioners began practicing this secret of relaxation in the Eight-Form Moving Meditation, concentrating themselves on their own sensation and experiencing the change brought on by their every movement. Ven. Chang-Tsao also asserted that the average person, with their hectic lifestyle, usually spends unnescessary amounts of energy in doing even simple tasks, which results in being over-exhausted. Take walking for example: most people step on the ground very heavily and with much force in order to reach the destination faster -- and in doing so, unintentionally exhaust themselves. As a matter of fact, as long as you can understand how to relax yourself and exert yourself mindfully, you can use less strength, less energy and still arrive at the destination just as, if not even more, quickly.

The task of carrying a bowl of water is another traditional practice which tested the retreatants ability to practice the principles of Chan -- this time, in motion. Many obstacles and barriers were arranged for the participants; to properly practice this form of moving meditation, a participant is given a bowl full to the brim with water. Then they must, while seated, turn around in a circle on a bench, keeping the bowl still all the while. Following that, they must stand up and walk without spilling the water from their bowls. The purpose of the exercise is for the participant to practice the methods of relaxation and concentration in movement. Without these elements, the water would certainly spill, and furthermore the participants would be tense and anxious. All participants had their own skillful postures and techniques to prevent water in their bowl from spilling. To further the challenge, they carried the bowl by turns with one hand, with both hands, with tense posture, or with relaxed movements. Though difficult, they put their mind to overcoming the challenges, and most of the participants showed a sense of accomplishment in completing the test.

Walking, standing, sitting, and resting can all follow the principles of Chan meditation, and eating is no exception. To experience the Chan of eating, the practitioners were first asked to eat a raisin at their own usual pace. Next, they were instructed to practice eating Chan by chewing the raisin sixty times each bite, slowly tasting and appreciating the sensations in the mouth. Some practitioners were surprised that a little raisin could have such an abundant taste! This is because in daily life we are all rushing around in haste, and too often neglect many delicate substances in our lives. The venerable reminded all that we do not have to keep searching or looking after things -- that many of the beautiful things we feel we are missing can be discovered within the details. All we have to do is slow down our pace and the beauty hidden in our ordinary life will be revealed.

During the group discussion and presentation portion of the retreat, many participants expressed that the activity of carrying the water bowl had left a deep impression and that they had learned much from it. Some realized that they became easily tense because they were focused on unrelated thoughts, or were being influenced by the outer environment. Interestingly, several remarked that carrying the bowl was like carrying their very own heart. Through the activity of carrying the water bowl, the practicioners came to a deeper understanding of themselves.

Before the end of the retreat, Ven. Chang-Tsao encouraged all to keep practicing the methods of Chan meditation in daily life, and to continue developing the power of the inner mind. Most importantly, he said, be the master of your own body and mind!

The retreatants were very joyful to have had this wonderful date with themselves. In the one-day retreat, the methods of Chan meditation were introduced to help the practitioners understand new ways of making body and mind calm and peaceful. Lastly, the venerables blessed the retreatants and closed with the wish that all people could employ the methods they have learned in every process and moment of life.

Text Contributor by Ms. Kuo, Tzu-wei (郭紫薇)
Translated by Kate Wan-chi Huang (黃婉琪) and edited by Matthew Stoia

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