by Myoshin Kelley
As eight weeks of retreat is coming to an end, I wanted to reach out and share some reflections of the power and benefit of retreat, as well as to remind those of us who live in Minneapolis, we have a perfect opportunity for solo retreat just an hour south of the city at Metta Meditation Center. First a bit about retreat.
I know with the pandemic and how we have so often felt like we don’t see people any more, our activities are limited, isn’t this in itself a retreat? Yes for many of us it has been a taste of a simpler life, of being with oneself more and many of us have had a deep look at how we live and our making helpful changes that keep us in alignment with our hearts' deepest wishes. So, why do a retreat now?
As I have been sitting here over the weeks, with letting go of the news, social interaction, zoom calls which keep me online for hours each day, I have in my little hermitage been held by the natural world around me. It seems the longer you are here, the more the natural world reveals itself. Each day new wonders unfold like knowing the pecking order at the bird feeder, seeing new birds, a mink sprinting across the yard, new tracks after a snowfall and the short wide animal that is unnamed. The time in nature itself has been a balm for a frazzled nervous system.
As it is with nature and as it is that we are a part of nature, so it is that the mind reveals itself in different ways with time. Watching patterns that drive me, surface and turn to bubbles. Being able to see the hooks in a whole new light that is not so personal or reactive. Allowing whatever needs to arise within the warmth and acceptance of awareness that does not discriminate or judge. Remembering I have a body that is the vehicle that I am here in and that it needs care. At times I find I am laughing out loud at myself and the plain silliness of my habitual grasping when what I need is already here!
There have been trickles of the world coming in and this keeps the practice real. This world we live in and being a human being is challenging, our hearts are pierced in sorrow at times and this is why we need to practice. To find our way back to ourselves, to that which is in its nature and expression of love, compassion and wisdom. That which has the capacity to hear the cries of the world and be courageous and responsive rather than caught in fear, that which can extend a helping hand to those caught in confusion.
Being here is like taking in a big long drink after feeling parched. It’s not always easy as some of the habitual patterns arise and are tenacious. There is the time and space to make friends with them. As the ups and downs happen on a daily basis there is a growing sense of ease in being with it all.
Unlike taking a holiday, the benefits of retreat go beyond whatever level of rejuvenation we might feel as it can affect the very way we live our lives. What we learn about our minds helps us in our day to day lives. As we learn to be a friend to ourselves, we become better friends to others. Our practice can have a ripple effect out into the world to help bring to light the beautiful qualities that we all have.
I also wanted to mention two options for doing solitary retreat. I am currently at Metta Meditation Center, formerly Holy Spirit Retreat Center. It is a jewel of a center. Some of you are familiar with it from the group retreats we were holding twice a year in life before the pandemic. In addition to the group retreat center, which is pretty quiet right now, they have 4 hermitages that are all unique cabins, toasty warm with views of Lake Elysian. It is placed upon 38 acres with 2.5 miles of well-maintained trails. The history of the land being sacred goes back to the Winnebago Native American tribes and the Sisters of St Francis. It is currently stewarded by the Triple Gem of the North, a Theravada monastic community.
The cabins are a wonderful place to do solitary retreat. There is plenty of space not to have to interact or the opportunity to check in about one’s practice with one of the monks. True to its name, it is indeed imbued with metta or lovingkindness and a refuge in this time of so much planetary strife.
There is a two day minimum which for anyone can be an opportunity to rejuvenate and if it is your first solo retreat it is a nice amount to start with. If we have done group retreats before, we bring the wisdom from these retreats and find our own rhythm and momentum. It helps to bring alive the teachings we have already heard to really come to know for ourselves.
There is another jewel of a retreat center, Dorje Khyung Dzhong, located in Southern Colorado that is more remote and rustic. Steve Tibbetts, a local community member is generously making funds available as a way of introducing people to solitary retreat to pay retreat costs for people who have not done a solitary retreat before at DKD. You would need to cover your own travel costs. If you think you might be interested check out the website and then contact [email protected] or [email protected] to learn more. We have both done a number of retreats there and highly value it for a more remote alternative that is very conducive to practice.
If you want to have any support in connection with your retreat, you are welcome to reach out to [email protected] , [email protected] or [email protected] and we would be happy to talk to you about it. Whether you do a retreat for rest and relaxation or to probe deeper into the taming of your wild and crazy mind or simply practice at home, please take care of yourself!