Phew – it’s 7:15pm and I just brought my bag in from the car and unpacked…I guess the retreat is officially over. It’s these last moments that are always the hardest for me. The removal of the bracelets, the cleaning of the cabin, Master Pearson’s final talk, the drive home, the transition between the high energy of the retreat weekend and the completely different energy that accompanies the dawning of the following Monday. One thing that makes this year different however, is the fact that we now have Hagsaeng Naebu and this blog. The bitterness that comes with the end of the retreat is somehow lessened by the knowledge that I’ll hopefully have the opportunity to participate in a similar experience in just a few weeks time and I have this format of media, however public, to relive the retreat through written word and pictures and reflect on it.
We had an absolutely wonderful 4 days together…definitely one of the top retreats that I’ve participated in (I think was my 14th or 15th year). Here’s my list of why this year was amazing (in no particular order) and hopefully this, along with our video posts (which will be up shortly) as well as the pictures will give you some insight into what we were up to all weekend long.
– We were back at Camp Gorham for the first time in 10 years and we were in a beautiful, brand new facility. It was perfect for our group (except for when I almost set the building on fire and the fire department had to come at 6 in the morning – this was by far the most mortifying moment I’ve ever had at a retreat). But the place was great and it really poignantly depicted what the retreat has always been about for me…a blending of the old and new, nostalgia for the past and excitement for the future.
– Morning meditation was not as brutal as it usually is. Oddly enough, this seemed to be the consensus throughout the group. In fact, several people related during the weekend that they had had some sort of breakthrough in this aspect of the retreat culture. I mentioned this in a video blog, I think, but I usually find our practice of 4:45am sitting to be quite horrendous. I’m so tired and incapable of functioning at that time of day that I rarely even give it a chance. On day 1 I sat correctly for about 45 seconds and then pulled my knees up to my chin and went to sleep. On day 2 however, perhaps it was the visual imagery the night before (I was told that I was given the suggestion that I would be full of energy in the morning and excited about meditation – a true rarity), but I decided to give it a real try. Believe it or not but for the full session I actually did what I was told…shocker, I know! And truth be told I found it to be much less difficult than I had expected. Imagine…following directions! Such a simple concept and yet totally transformative. Perhaps I’m turning over a new leaf!
– Our main focus on this retreat in terms of learning was pressure points. This is something we have done with some frequency in the past,including on our last road trip, so I was a bit apprehensive (although I try to live by the principle of “pay attention” that Ms. Doll talks about in her video post). It was great though! Usually we focus on the healing aspects of pressure points, but this time we did the opposite. We learned how to cause pain! We learned how to use the pressure points for both offensive and defensive purposes…the room echoed with “ouch!” and “oooooooh!” as groups practiced these seriously cool techniques. And then it happened…I had been waiting all day! Finally, as promised, Master Pearson called me to the front of the room to be his partner for the demonstration. His hands moved so fast, striking both sides of my head, one hitting the front right, the other connecting with the back left. For one split second I saw nothing, just complete blackness. In the next, I was lying on the floor…having survived my first pressure point knock out! IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!!!! For footage of the event actually happening, check out the video posted earlier this evening.
– I got to participate, for the first time, in the master question and answer session. This was also a really interesting opportunity because I for sure never saw it coming. Truth be told, I find it completely incredulous that this is a title that was given to me and while I’m proud that I worked hard and hopefully legitimately earned it, I’ve had quite a difficult time transitioning into that role and figuring out how it fits me. It’s a goal I’ve had… well…since forever, but even now, almost a year later, I have a really hard time accepting it. I was sitting with the group, trying to figure out how to best articulate my own question that I had prepared, when Master Pearson surprised me by ordering me up to the front of the room. I was blown away by the questions the group posed, particularly that these questions originated in the minds and mouths of some of our youngest members. It is a very good sign that they are thinking about these things and that they aren’t afraid to ask about them. It was also comforting to know that when I butchered the answers completely, Master Pearson wasn’t far away. He was there to jump in and provide the knowledge and experience that got to the heart of the students’ inquiries…except my own (again…shocker!?), leaving me to contemplate it further by myself and then re-ask when the time is right.
So there’s the highlight reel. It was an incredible weekend and now Monday is fast approaching… so I will delay it as long as possible by attempting to get a good night’s sleep. Please check out the photos and our videos (especially me getting knocked out!). A sincere thank you to everyone who participated, and a particular expression of gratitude to Master Pearson who gave so willingly of himself these last 100 hours.
Goodnight and happy mondays