Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Going to the Cabin

My first solo retreat was at Diamond Hill Zen Monastery many years ago. Had the place all to myself for a little while, except for a persistent squirrel. It was a difficult retreat in no small part due to an illness that gripped my body. Was it psychogenic? Don't know.

Zen Master Dae Bong has likened zen retreats to placing a white background behind your life for a period of time. Against this backdrop, your mind appears to you very clearly. There are few distractions: the retreat is conducted in silence, the schedule is pretty rigid, ten hours of your day are spent in formal meditation, and for the duration of the retreat you devote your life to practice. In a group setting, you have the support of that group to encourage you and complete your retreat commitment; on a solo retreat, you're on your own. No one is checking your practice. What will you do with your time?

My family situation does not allow for long retreats at this time, but I have received clearance to go away for a seven day retreat, and arrangements are now underway with the help of my teacher. The cabin you see at the top of this post is located on the slope of Greenhorn Mountain above the Huerfano Valley in southern Colorado. This is the location of Dorje Khyung Dzong, a retreat center founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and dedicated to solo retreats. There are seven cabins, at a distance from each other, with a few spare facilities to support people doing a period of hermit-practice.

My retreat will be in late May.

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