DDM Sydney organised a 3-Day Retreat from 1 – 3 October, 2011 attended by 15 participants at the Elanora Conference Centre.
We were fortunate enough to be led by three Venerable from Taiwan, supervised by Venerable Chang Xu, Venerable Chang Sui as our Dharma teacher and last but not least Venerable Chang Kuan, our trusty timekeeper. It was a particularly special retreat for DDM members as it was only four years ago that Venerable Chang Xu left Sydney to become a monastic. This was the first retreat he supervised, and furthermore at Sydney!
While I have attended a number of retreats in Sydney, this retreat like every other is very different. The Venerable are different, the participants are different, and the venue is different. So, it should not have come as a surprise to me that the schedule would too be different, it however still surprised me. Sitting meditation sessions were shorter, long breaks after each meal which I used to catch up on sleep, and furthermore the program incorporated tea meditation. This demonstrates the impermanence as taught by the Buddha – not every Chan retreat is necessarily a meditation boot camp!
This retreat attracted a number of newcomers to meditation which was a welcome surprise (apparently DDM retreats have a reputation for being strict amongst youth groups). Venerable Chang Sui’s Dharma talks were simple yet interesting. He reminded those with previous experience to practise with a beginner’s mind, to use this chance as revision and work on our foundations. It is like an ant nest, as the peak of the nest grows higher, its base also grows wider. Another aspect of his talks that I am sure we all took to heart was, “It’s okay to sleep”. Thank you Venerable for your compassion!
I always enjoy sharing sessions at the end of the retreat, to be able to share and listen to each other’s feelings and similarly feel connected through understanding. We all nod knowingly after hearing another talk of scattered thoughts, body pain, drowsiness and so forth. Justin, one of the participants, said that he felt like a kid again when we ran around the Chan Hall in circles and plonked down for a nap after exhausting ourselves. It is also motivating to hear how others have benefitted through the retreat; especially for us organisers when it is so difficult to attract enough participants to attend as the venue we hired required a minimum of 15 people.
The retreat was a great experience for us all, we were all able to bring away something we had learned with us. Although, whether we will incorporate it into our daily lives is the real challenge. Let’s hope we can survive until the next retreat!
(by DDM Australia)