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Some Reflection on the Seven-Day Retreat

To experience true relaxation and freedom of body and mind, I entered the Chan hall of Dharma Drum Vancouver Center (DDVC) on the evening of April 18 for a fundamental seven-day retreat. Even though having participated in meditation retreats of both silent illumination and huatou practices, what I was seeking in this retreat is the true relaxation and calm, as I know that Chan meditation practice guided by Ven. Chang Wu, Chief Director of DDVC, will help the retreatants relax their body and mind and the bliss of meditation.

As a typical career woman, the hectic daily activities provide me with best excuses for not practicing meditation on a regular basis. From time to time, I’d take advantage of one-hour sitting enjoying the freedom and relief, with the methods shifting from observing breaths to silent illumination, and to huatou, or vice versa. Occasionally, if my physical condition was fine, I really got the mind well settled and enjoyed the peace and calm, but most of the time I dozed away the second half of the sitting or felt guilty of having so many scattered thoughts. In the process of fumbling for a most “suitable” method, I know what I need is to attend a Fundamental Chan Retreat, otherwise I will be gradually losing interest/confidence in meditation.

The lucky thing is, thanks to Ven. Chang Wu’s wonderful teachings, I have found and become familiar with the solution to my problem—relaxation. Chang Wu Fashi is so compassionate and accommodating in guiding our practice, whether it’s the pre-sitting exercise or the eight form moving exercise. Through her detailed instruction, with soft and calming voice, the eight-form moving meditation opens the new entrance for us beginning with our full awareness of every subtle movement. In the guiding of pre-sitting head exercise, she emphasized the clear awareness of each slow movement of the head, neck or even the shoulders. It’s really a brand-new experience for me to enjoy the true calm and peace that sustain through the sitting. Reminding participants to massage thoroughly in ample time is also a thoughtful part of this retreat. You just feel relieved physically after the massage, with the spirit and mind still in a calm and serene state.

As kindly suggested by Ven. Chang Wu during an interview, I started to make the habit of doing head exercise at the beginning of each sitting and doing it as slowly as possible. This step becomes essentially important to me after sessions of practice. In the past, the head exercise that I assumed was just nodding and bowing the head, followed by a hasty “relaxing through the whole body.” No wonder it always took me quite a while to catch the sensation of air going through the nostrils. Now that we become mindful of the slow, or even invisible, moving of the head and neck, our coarse state of mind gradually settles into a subtle state in which we’ll be able to be aware of the sensation of air going through the nostrils. How wonderful it is to be really “enjoy” the breathing! The calm and tranquility during the entire sitting is really blissful with the whole body and mind indulged in the sensation of relaxation.

At the end of the retreat, I made a resolution to forsake the past sloppy attitude of meditation. To increase the momentum of practice, the only thing I need to do is to keep a routine practice of meditation so vital energy, peace and calm will endure.

Thank you so much for everything, Venerable Chang Wu!

Thanks to all volunteers and participants to make this retreat a wonderful experience.

(Shared by Rebecca Pai, DDM Vancouver Center)

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