ahhhh Memories – My First Martial Art Retreat

So my first retreat eh?  Great topic choice Master Pearson…also interesting concept to have everyone post on the same thing.  Kind of cool!

Right, my first retreat…

I was first eligible to attend the Winter Retreat in 1996 or 97.  What I remember most was being scared to death.  You see there were no other black belts even close to my age so I was really the youngest person by 4 or 5 years.  Emily Fleischer (yeah blast from the past!!) was there and she was a few years older than me.  To make matters even more interesting, the then administrator at our school warned me to pack anything that I would think that I could or would ever possibly need because we were going to the middle of nowhere where there were no other people for hundreds of miles.  Way to put my mind at ease.  But wait, it gets better…Master Pearson had chosen for the topic of that year’s retreat (wait for it…) Internal Organ Massage, yeah…gross!  So there I was, this scared little 13 year old kid forced to massage another person’s organs, in the middle of nowhere in upstate new york.  What had I gotten myself into?

So for all of you who are coming for the first time, or contemplating coming for the first time, but maybe you’re just a bit nervous…DON’T BE!  For you see, it used to be much more fear-inducing!   What else do I remember about that first retreat…Like Ms. Doll I too remember the bell with surprising clarity (pun intended).  In fact, I remember a sleepless night as I awaited its early morning sounds – because i was worried I wouldn’t hear it.  That was the same year, by the way, that Mr. Smith, upon hearing the bell awoke with a jolt and hit his head on the low beams of the cabin ceiling — ahhhhh memories.

I remember my first battle with early morning meditation…back then, Master Pearson used to reserve the black belt class right before the winter retreat as an opportunity to review the morning meditation procedure so naturally I thought I was well prepared.  Not quite – considering it’s still something I struggle with today.  Time and clocks were also a big thing at the winter retreat in the past.  There were lots of items that were “contraband.”  Electronics were forbidden, but clocks really topped the list…I’ll give you an example.  During my first retreat, we were doing walking meditation and I had the unfortunate luck to be walking directly in front of Master Pearson – actually this has happened to me a lot at the retreats…I don’t understand why, but that’s always the position I end up in and I don’t like it, it makes me very nervous for some reason – I’m going to make sure this year that I get a different spot in line.  Anyway, so my first retreat, I’m walking in front of Master Pearson but after some time I became oblivious to that fact.  I did notice however that the microwave on the counter had a clock on it.  The clock was incorrect but it didn’t matter because by subtly (or what I thought was subtly) glancing at the clock on each revolution, I could tell how much time had passed!  This was extremely helpful because I was able to determine how much longer this torture was going to last.  I’m not sure Master Pearson agreed with my little discovery for on one revolution around the room, he reached over the kitchen counter and swiftly unplugged the machine…I guess I wasn’t so subtle after all.  I think Master Pearson really wanted to make sure that time was irrelevant during these weekends and it was quite effective.  Throughout the day you really didn’t know what time it was and really didn’t seem to matter – a lecture lasted as long as long as it lasted and then we moved onto the next thing – no big deal.  To some extent it is still that way, even though we have a rough schedule which outlines our day, sometimes one topic is really hitting the mark and people get quite into it and aren’t ready to stop.  But in terms of the contraband over which such a big deal used to be made – let’s just say our teacher has gotten pretty soft about such things as time goes on (no one’s complaining about that!).

For some reason I don’t remember a whole lot of what we learned that year.  I remember a lecture about eh 6 healing sounds, and the internal organ massage of course, but that’s really all that comes to mind.  I’m sure however that the learning was excellent as it always is!  I do remember however, sledding behind cars.  What an awesome and welcomed break to the mental exercise that was class time!  If you’ve never done this at the retreat then you’ll have to just imagine it, but what an incredible thrill – tying a plastic sled to the back of Master VanHee’s jeep (or back then it might have been Master Humble’s jeep) with a thin cord of nylon rope and let ‘er rip!  Another powerful memory that is surfacing now that I’m thinking about it is how the first time I attempted this exciting ride, the finger of my glove somehow got tangled up into the rope and I couldn’t free myself, so somehow, even though I lost the sled about 100 yards back, my poor body was being dragged behind the car on top of the gravel road.  The driver and the lookout apparently thought I was still on my sled for it took them a loooooooong time to stop the car!  Ouch!!!!

Something like this…

So yeah, I wish I had more memories of that particular retreat to share.  As I got older and attended more and more of this yearly event, I also remembered more and more.  That first one though, even if in sketchy detail, is etched in my mind forever.  The retreat might have changed here and there over the years, but it still remains a highlight of every black belt’s experience – a chance to get to know the people you train with, to share ideas and knowledge, or to do things you never thought you would do (like stick your hand in a wolf trap, achieve something major during meditation or with energy work, or ascend a giant mountain that seemed impossible) – your first retreat is truly a right of passage.  And once you start attending, you’ll never get it out of your system!

See you all there!


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