Past Mountain Hermitage yogis speak about their retreat experiences…
Annual SPRING HERMITAGE
with Marcia Rose & sometimes a Visiting Teacher
I’m still very much walking with the learning and the experiential feeling of my two weeks with you. It was actually the most precious thing I’ve done in my life …
It was my deepest practice experience, and rewarding in more ways than I could have imagined.
I have been a Buddhist for 35 years and have attended numerous retreats in Theravadin, Zen and Vajrayana traditions. However, this retreat was unique in several respects. Its duration of 14-28 days, the balance between opportunity for self-retreat and using retreat schedule guidelines, the maturity of practitioners and, finally, the not-too-loose or not-too-tight container allowed for a deep, full, rich retreat experience allowing me to reconnect with and deepen my practice.
breath comes and goes
between melting spring snow
forgetting the I
recalling the breath
again and again
with each bite
of morning oatmeal
forgetting the I
recalling the breath
no start no finish
Taos moon watches
“No particular thought can be the mind’s natural state, only silence. When the mind is in its natural state it reverts to silence spontaneously after every experience or, rather, every experience happens against the background of silence.” –Nisargadatta
For me, it was worth every minute. The quote from Nisargadatta sums up my retreat and post-retreat experience beautifully.
It is a miraculous occasion in a person’s life to be able to absent oneself from the restless continuity of obligations and productions of life! And then how wonderful to leave my busy city full of air traffic and garbage collection noises, and repair to the remote fastness of high altitude Northern New Mexico. The quiet and solitude seemed to stretch to infinity. The San Geronimo Lodge is overlooked by mountains, and the garden is cloistered by a fence. The new owner of the lodge has retired recently from ministry life and has created a labyrinth and a contemplative walk around the perimeter of the garden. The historic lodge serves very well as a monastery during our spring retreat.
I so enjoyed the flexible retreat schedule and the privacy of practicing in my own room. These are ideal conditions for someone who is self motivated in practice. We were a small group of 15, just the right size for a retreat community according to Saint Teresa of Avila. We had only individual interviews with no group interviews, and this also contributed to the extraordinary solitude.
Marcia has been teaching for more than twenty years and quickly put me at ease and gained my confidence with her astute intuition observing stresses in my practice that were up to this point hidden to me. That is a great gift. She scheduled our interviews at regular intervals and generously offered sign-ups on other days. One could see her as much or as little as one needed and she alwaysmade time for sudden needs.
Her Dhamma talks were comprehensive in their topics over the month, treating important themes in practice carefully, reflectively and articulately. I appreciated the scope of study and life experience she drew upon in her talks. Suttas and commentaries wove well with stories of her own life as a mother, a student of Native American teachers, and a disciple of living Buddhist masters.
Although I have had a meditation practice for many years, I am always amazed at what happens during an intensive period of practice. This was my second Hermitage retreat at San Geronimo Lodge, and I particularly appreciate the sacred space created there by Marcia and the staff, a space that affords retreatants an opportunity to deepen their practice and understanding of the Dharma. Over the months before the retreat, I experienced a sense of dryness in my practice. I was anxious about whether I would be able to build and sustain concentration as I sat with the various aches and pains of an aging body.
Because of this rare opportunity to sustain practice in a supportive environment, my practice was rejuvenated. I feel inspired by a deeper understanding of some of the truths of the Buddha, both because I was able to hear something new in the Dharma talks, and to actively and experientially sense these truths during the course of my practice. Part of the time I chose to look at the profound truth of dukkha and the reality of suffering. In experiencing how everything is changing all the time and in reality there is nothing that we can hold on to, I saw the source of suffering in my life and in the lives of others. I felt a profound opening of the heart in relation to suffering, my own and the suffering of others. And this has continued after the retreat. The opening of the heart that occurs during a period of intense practice is a gift for which I am most grateful.
The changing weather in Taos is a clear reminder of impermanence and that everything is changing all the time. The transition into spring, the renewal that occurs with the season in nature reinforced and mirrored the new life that was able to bud and blossom in my practice over the two weeks that I was there.
I am filled with a sense of joy and delight and amazement that such good fortune could be part of my life. The time at the retreat went by quickly, each day revealing some new aspect of clinging to “I, Me and Mine” and allowing the graceful release of that habitual clinging.
The environment is made to order. The owners of the San Geronimo Lodge are thrilled to host these deep practitioners every year and they vacate the facility and turn it over to us. The property is located at the end of a dirt road, out in the country near a river. The mother acequia runs thru the property, bringing the water element in harmony with the air and the earth. The fire element is well represented by the ever changing weather. Snow storms, rain and wind and balmy warm days bring a parade of tulips, daffodils, budding cottonwoods, fruit blossoms, and majestic views of snow capped Taos Mountain.
We each have our own room and bath, a rare luxury in this day of retreat centers. There is a special intimacy created as we go silently about our daily lives without needing to interact through our personalities. The format is very open and allows for extended sitting and the ability of each yogi to decide how long to sit and how long to walk. The teacher interviews are timely and supportive of our own practice. With years of training and teaching, Marcia is extremely skilled in guiding each yogi with individual attention. Her Dharma talks are always well planned and interspersed with appropriate stories, quotes and poetry. The short morning reflections always point our practice day into a deeper direction.
Retreat Manager Chris Clifford reflects on the Spring Hermitage:
Once again, the lovely San Geronimo Lodge was transformed into a home for The Mountain Hermitage’s annual one-month retreat. Each day began with the group sitting together and chanting as light from the crackling fireplace slowly yielded to the dawning sun. After a simple breakfast and work period, yogis practiced sitting and walking meditation throughout the day, following their individual schedules. At any hour of the day or night there might be several people sitting together in the meditation hall, while others chose to sit in their rooms or outdoors.
The lawns, patios, nearby fields and streams provided a rich variety of walking meditation spots. Optional practices included grooming and caring for the resident dogs and cats, weeding the early spring gardens, watching the magpies build their nests, and observing the simple unfolding of brown winter buds into leafy green. As snowy mornings gradually gave way to blooming tulips, singing birds, and scented spring breezes, bodies relaxed, minds settled, and hearts opened.
For yogis and staff alike, the nourishing and delicious food prepared so lovingly by our cook, enhanced the practice experience and supported an environment of energy, alertness, and calm. The small size of the retreat – 21 yogis in all – provided a spiritual intimacy, the great good fortune of at least two practice interviews a week and daily support as needed from guiding teacher Marcia Rose and visiting teacher Annie Nugent. Most evenings, yogis gathered in the meditation hall for a Dharma talk or guided meditation.
The flexible schedule, spaciousness of the setting and length of the retreat were the perfect combination of conditions to foster the unfolding of each person’s practice in its own, unique rhythm.
These days I live in a wheel chair. For me to do anything takes planning – and the cooperation of friends. It doesn’t help that I am really rotten at asking for help. I grew up indoctrinated with the idea that you were a failure if you couldn’t do things by yourself.
Those days are over. This disease–MS–has robbed me of privacy, solitude, and a chance to practice in a retreat setting. There are very, very few handicapped-accessible retreat centers. Spirit Rock is one, IMS another. But I can’t drive or fly, so both Spirit Rock and IMS are out.
But here in Taos, San Geronimo Lodge is wheel-chair accessible. I did my first month-long retreat with The Mountain Hermitage there in April 2011 which went a long way in helping me cope with my disease in Buddhist terms. The Hermitage provided a personal yogi, recorded Dharma talks to listen to since I cannot sit for long periods, the only truly handicapped bathroom I have ever experienced, and a truly loving Dharma community that at the end of the retreat told me my presence had enriched their practice. I hope they know how much they enriched mine.
“…in the footprint of the Buddha…” CONCENTRATION/SAMATHA RETREAT with Marcia Rose
The facilities were comfortable, the food excellent. The amazing retreat manager was, if one noticed, unobtrusively everywhere, easing the surroundings. Gracious Marcia also was everywhere, all the time, warmly showering the attendees with care and concern. I will hold this in memory as the most supportive environment that I can imagine. I thought I was prepared for the duration of the retreat, but this proved not to be the case. And yet, I would not want to have missed a day.
One of the benefits of a number of retreats and this recent one, is a vivid realization of the constants revealed where Buddhist practice is lived by the ones giving themselves with unwavering consistency to the practitioners. Our teacher, Marcia Rose, has dedicated herself to this path. It is a priceless example and very rare.This was uppermost in my mind during this retreat.
Four-Five Week VIPASSANA RETREAT with Sayadaw Vivekananda & Marcia Rose
Synergia Ranch appeared a perfect fit for the retreat. An organic orchard provided camping spots and comfortable adobe buildings provided shelter for meditators of all ages. Sometimes challenged by the random appearance of large bull snakes and red racers, wild winds, buzzing insects, and our own minds, we were steadfastly supported by the wisdom and compassion of teachers Marcia Rose and Sayadaw Vivekananda through daily interviews and Dhamma talks. With the additional support of fellow meditators, scrumptious vegetarian meals, expansive vistas, spectacular sunsets, star-filled night skies, and the seemingly endless patience of retreat manager Chris Clifford, progress was inevitable!
During one Dhamma talk, the hall darkened, thunder boomed, and then enormous raindrops began slapping all around us, progressively landing faster and faster until the din was ear shattering and the roof leaking. Each time the din increased, so did Marcia’s voice, as she calmly continued her talk. Later, as we mindfully walked out into the clear evening calm, not a sign of moisture remained, already evaporated into the dry, dry air. Our surroundings, like the practice itself, kept changing.
In the closing circle Sayadaw Vivekananda eloquently observed how the blending of many energies had benefited our practice: the Eastern wisdom of the Buddha flowering in this uniquely Western setting, the personality styles of the two teachers balancing and supporting the teachings, the quiet natural beauty of our surroundings, and the comfortable acceptance of the local creatures sharing their space with us (as the days passed, the wild rabbit population began feeling safe enough to forage for food near the feet of slowly moving yogis).
The last day, as we packed up and went our separate ways, much gratitude was expressed and many were hoping to share such synergy again soon.
FINDING FREEDOM THROUGH INSIGHT MEDITATION with Brian Lesage
When I arrived for this Vipassana retreat January 19, I was emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted. And I questioned if leaving my regular life to indulge in a silent retreat, with amazing cuisine, in a beautiful place was right. Nevertheless, I had committed and I felt truly welcomed by the Mountain Hermitage and teacher Brian Lesage. The other yogis quickly became a supportive and ethical sanga. As the week unfolded the inner work was difficult at times. Brian offered deep guidance with Buddhist insight, humor, and kindness. Exactly the encouragement I needed to continue. Upon leaving I noticed how awake my senses had become over the eight days. I have been laughing more easily and able to listen to others with more understanding. Tasting equanimity and not turning away.
The experience of my week of retreat with Brian was amazing! There was a depth and wide scope to his teaching. I now find a have a deep center of quiet that I can return to as my days unfold. My happiness bubbles up in ordinary moments. I smile and feel grounded in the midst of these stormy times. I am so profoundly grateful to both Brian and the staff at Mountain Hermitage.
I’ve just returned today from the Hermitage retreat with Brian LeSage. The scholarship given to me by the Mountain Hermitage made it possible for me to attend this retreat, and its timing was critical. The happenings in the world as well as my sister’s death four weeks ago were causing me a great deal of grief. This retreat, being cradled in that sangha, gave me the support and safety for doingsome healing. Nothing has really changed except me: I feel the modicum of equanimity that is hope. I believe I can bring a stronger me back into the world we face. Thank you so much.
Once again, I was reminded gently and at times not so gently (when in the mist of self suffering!) that as my mind settles there is an opening in each moment to be present.
The retreat with Brian Lesage and all the yogis created a safe space for this being to let go and begin anew again and again. The Sangha which was held in noble silence offered many rich moments to deepen my practice while sitting on the cushion and actually quite often during the transition times during the retreat. Some of those times included doing a yogi job, walking meditation, eating the deliciously prepared meals that nourished this body, and the ease within the retreat setting which was created and maintained by the retreat manager and all members of our Sangha to move about. Cultivating mindfulness and concentration in my practice was very much supported by Brian’s clear and open hearted teachings of the Dhamma.
The recent silent mindfulness meditation retreat at The Mountain Hermitage retreat center was very successful for me. The accomodations were sufficient, meals well prepared, and the administrative and logistical support was excellent. I especially enjoyed the grounds, including the labyrinth, and can feel the spiritual and cultural energy held by the land. Magpies became my spirit animal of the week.
This was a wonderful experience. Although retreats offer challenge, Brian created an atmosphere of support and safety. He is so generous with his time, sharing his wisdom and knowledge of the dharma during daily sits and talks. I found the individual meetings with Brian so personally helpful, offering both encouragement and some practical suggestions. I am so very grateful to The Mountain Hermitage for providing this opportunity.
Overall, such gratitude for this smooth and beneficial retreat. Facilitators expertly handled everything with kindness and without disturbance. Brian Lesage was unknown to me before this, and he turned out to be a fantastic Dharma teacher and guide, always speaking right to my inner experience. The location of this retreat was beautiful, with the stunning view of Taos Mountain.
I had a deeply moving and profound experience in my 7-day silent meditation. Mountain Hermitage does such a excellent job running the retreats and the teacher was such a masterful and skillful guide with so much knowledge, kindness and compassion. Brian was amazing! I would love to learn from him again
This past retreat was a great opportunity to deepen my practice. Brian is an excellent and thorough teacher for anyone, from experienced practitioners to beginners.
I had a very good experience. I appreciated the location, the serenity and beauty. I appreciated the management – Sarah (retreat manager) was magnificent. Brian’s teaching were generous and abundant. I loved the food. I liked having a small group – it was intimate and made for community better. I loved my room – very comfortable and simple. And Kathy (admin person), you were fabulous, your emails were so lovely and warm and you kept me informed every step of the way. Thanks so much for everything. and for providing scholarship support.
LISTENING, CONTEMPLATION, and MEDITATION: Study Retreat with Venerable Dhammadinna
It was a wonderful retreat. I found study as well as practice very valuable for me. The Venerable Dhammadinna is a wonderful teacher, both very encouraging and challenging. I think a week is a good time period, and of course longer retreats are very valuable. I so much look forward to Spring month retreat. Mountain Hermitage is such a blessing for us all, and for me offers a path to understanding and peace in my aging and the uncertainty of life and death to come.
Soooo many positive aspects of the Retreat with Ven. Dhammadinna! Where do I begin? Venerable Dhammadinna wove together an amazing tapestry of both study and meditation. I found the format very beneficial. The exploration of Metta from a variety of angles was as very helpful and I have been able to integrate the practice into my life in a richer way since I’ve returned home. And having the opportunity for three practice interviews was extremely fortunate. Food was delicious – Surya such a loving presence. The accommodations were very conducive to a meditation retreat – and being able to do walking meditation in my room was supportive. I would definitely participate again – and I hope that Ven. Dhammadinna will lead this retreat again in the future.
SELF-NOT SELF & THE CREATIVE PROCESS RETREAT with Marcia Rose assisted by Wynn Fricke & Sean Murphy
The retreat experience was very helpful to me in many ways. First of all, as a householder living in a busy house, having two weeks of space, silence, and time was a wonderful blessing. Being able to engage in the creative modalities (movement, seeing/drawing, and writing) allowed me to begin to comprehend in some small measure the true selfless nature of existence. Instead of talking about Self/No Self as a concept, I was able to actually experience brief moments of No Self during my participation in each of the creative modalities.
The movement experience was very liberating for me because I felt released and free by the way the movement sessions were introduced and conducted. I was able to move for long periods without self-consciousness or fear of judgment from fellow participants. It was amazing to me how the body has its own wisdom that can be completely uninfluenced by the workings of the mind. Left to its own devices, the body moves easily and freely. It knows what to do. There is no self; just a moving body. The movement was the easiest of the modalities for me. I felt able to enter this experience without anticipation, thought, or analysis. I just fell into it. It was amazing to be in a room with 10 other moving people without really paying attention to the other moving bodies.
I was quite anxious about the drawing. Calling it “seeing/drawing” did not help my anticipatory worries. It is amazing to watch how the mind reverts to the fears of childhood and worries about “performing” at a certain level. I had not drawn since I was in fourth grade. I was certain I would not be able to do this. However, through simple instructions, Marcia showed me how to really see objects (instead of just look at them) and to bring this seeing to paper. When I was able to let go of my worries and judgments, I was able to focus on an object of interest and my hand drew rather effortlessly. For periods of time, I drew without engaging the mind, just letting my hand draw what my eyes saw. For me, the drawing was the most intense experience of the three modalities.
Writing was the most difficult modality for me. This is interesting because I have been writing extensively as part of my profession for over 30 years. The writing was the last creative modality we did, and I found that I was very resistant to the idea of putting words on paper. I did not want to begin to use words again after 10 days of silence, and I initially felt strong resistance to the teacher’s attempts to get me to do this. However, once we started writing Haiku, I relaxed into the rhythm, the structure and the counting of syllables, and I was able to do this quite effortlessly. I enjoyed sitting outside, seeing what was going on in the world, and then writing about it. Haiku was a perfect form for this retreat because it is by its nature “selfless”. I noticed that on the eight hour drive home from Taos, my “re-entry” into the everyday world was much easier than it has been on previous retreats. Stopping to buy gas or food was not difficult as it usually is. I believe this is because of the writing work we did during the last days of the retreat.
By bringing attention to the creative modalities, the mind was quite concentrated and focused on the work of moving, drawing and writing. Because of this, the mind was not constantly engaged in creating and maintaining the idea of self.
Distant green hilltop
Shoots three black birds into the
Slowly moving clouds
The flicker arrives
With a flash of scarlet wings
Scattering small birds
I remember very well the thoughts and feelings I had while waiting for the van to pick me up for the airport: I was at peace and wanting to return to Taos when situations permit. These feelings have not changed.
Overall, I was very pleased with the whole set up. The atmosphere and environment was conducive to the practice. The accommodation was very comfortable, if not luxurious, for meditation practice. The foods were plentiful and nutritious.
The title of the retreat, “Self-No Self and the Creative Process” was very compelling for me. I just knew that this was the one opportunity I could not, and would not, pass.
All three modalities left deep imprints in me. The movement modality helped to bring out the child in me. I felt very awkward and very self-conscious at first, but now I wouldn’t mind to play in the rain puddles. The door has been permanently unlocked. In a way, I am feeling liberated from the fear of being judged.
The drawing modality literally brought me to tears. For years, I have been reciting: “I am of the nature to die; death is unavoidable;” however, when I had that piece of dried bone in my hands, death was so real, and the self dissolved so fast. On a practical level, I realized that I could draw, not to earn a living, but well enough to debunk the false beliefs and limitations I had imposed on myself.
I haven’t done any movement or drawing since my return, but I kept up with haiku writing. In fact, I have read all three or four books Sean Murphy introduced to the group including his own, and couple more by Natalie Goldberg. Two moments during the writing modalities stood out in my mind. On the first assignment, I composed four haiku. The following one came
With each passing breeze
dried leaves tremble on branches
dogs bark in distance.
When I shared it with the group, almost everyone could relate vividly to that moment, but I was the only one to record it.
The second instance came on the last day of the modality. Against, we were out in the open trying to compose haiku. I tried and tried without success. I kept looking around and starring at the blank sheet of paper. Suddenly several things happened at the same time–the bell sounded, the sun came out from hiding, the wind picked up. I looked around and felt the locomotion–my yogi friends were getting ready to go in and the trees were swaying back and forth. Suddenly everything came together out of chaos. I recorded the moment in a flash, and that was my only haiku for that day:
Sun light breaks through cloud
both tree and yogis rejoice
their shadows come alive.
I learned from the writing modality to let go off the self to give room for creativity to come in.
In summary, all three modalities worked equally well for me. I got everything I expected from the retreat. I am very grateful to the teachers, staff, my yogi friends and the owners of the property, for making this wonderful opportunity a reality for me. Not a day goes by that I didn’t do something to strengthen the creative mind in its constant struggle against the critical mind. Now I hope that someday these seeds would manifest in my photography.
I can only say that my experience on this retreat was probably the best I have ever had. It opened up in me a confidence of ability I didn’t think I had. I am referring especially to learning to draw with really seeing, patience and no self. I have dared to take other artistic expressions but earlier drawing classes set me back drastically emotionally. The teaching and concentration on patience and really seeing made me realize the potential of self confidence and freedom which I never thought I was able to do. The whole retreat with movement, writing, and drawing interwoven in the self no-self retreat emphasized to me the ability to really be free, patient and live life fully to look beyond the self which worked so perfectly with the theme of the retreat. I also learned tools on how to explore new experiences that self judgement had hindered me to do i.e. starting to write again after 5 years of writer’s block amazed me and the way it was taught. I highly recommend this retreat to everyone and have already spread my feelings to many people including at my sangha.
Thank you for the retreat – even the part I had the most resistance to – the movement – has been valuable. I had fun teaching my grandkids some of the mirroring and group dancing and they had a great time with it. The writing was also not something I usually do for fun but it was and having my journal has brought back insights I would have lost otherwise. I have been listening to sounds arising and falling away when I do sit and when I am just trying to tune in more.
I am grateful that I got to sit with you (Marcia) again, both Sean and Win were also an honor to sit with and be taught by and all of the yogis the same. The drawing was, of course my favorite part – soothing my soul.
Movement with Wynn –
Wow! We explored our ribs, diaphragm and lungs tonight. How the diaphragm is attached to the ribs, and how the diaphragm is a membrane-like muscle. I’ve never noticed the spelling of diaphragm before, nor just how expansive it is. What a blast! I love the way Wynn teaches and embodies the artistry of our human anatomy. Also, the skillful and gentle support for us to experiment with our self/non-self expressions through movement and stillness. Wynn: grace embodied.
Black ant travels on ground
Ascends dried-up slender leaf
A vertical climb.
Two empty bottles
Transparent brown glass with dirt
Nothing pouring out.
My first time attending a Buddhist retreat. The newness was challenging which added to the richness of practicing presence and mindfuness. I found the teachers and staff were quietly observant and responsive. Non intrusive to my process, yet delicately and respectfully guiding my practice as I moved throughout the moments. Really an art, I think, which was quite beautiful as I look back in retrospect.
The yogis were teachers as well, as I sought their guidance throughout the initial days. Through observation I was able to glean the direction I needed. The diversity of practices helped me find guides who met my needs of what I thought in the moment would serve me best. And once I became comfortable with the practice, I could go deeper into my own.
The meals were delightfully nurturing and inspired. I found great satisfaction in what was there at each meal. The “treats” were always available to add a note of cheer whenever I might be lacking in that throughout the retreat.
The creative self, no-self integrated through movement, drawing-seeing, and writing helped me rediscover an artistic life that has always nurtured me, but that I left along the wayside some time ago. This aspect of this retreat, allowing beginners through to advanced yogis, also made it all possible for me to attend and I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
Along with the bats, their delightful natural stench and mysterious beauty, I would say this retreat has been a godsend for me in every way possible.
I have begun a daily meditation which includes sitting, mindfulness, metta practice and continual reading of inspirational and educational works by Buddhists. My habits of movies and mindless chatter have no time in my days where stillness and inner quiet seem to fill my entire being. Earlier meals, daily walks in the woods and up the mountains, writing along with little time on the computer or in meetings keep me aware and focused on what I lost in my life, and now have regained.
I thank you, Marcia, Wynn, Sean, Deborah, Cathy, and Surya (TMH staff) for assisting in all this transformation to happen.
Black eye circled white,
Chipmonk motionless, waiting.
I am waiting, too.
Woosh of cars; silence.
One lone bird chirping; silence.
Car and car and car.
I discovered nothing – I was present – I did not have thoughts about it – I did not come to conclusions and I did not want to come to conclusions. I didn’t want to think, I didn’t want to put things together. I didn’t want to create theories, I didn’t care about getting it right, I didn’t want to evaluate, I wanted to be left alone of all that. I wanted to be in the state of quiet that I was in. I was content with the state of being a personality to whatever degree that I was. I was content to not have to try and figure it out – I was content to let my senses be and let them notice what they would notice without influence to the full degree that it happened. I was content to not worry about it. I was content to not pretend it had gone better than it had gone or had gone worse than it had gone or to determine my degree of success and make a pronouncement about it. I am content to write these words and content with their meaning or not meaning, their matching up with what I’m supposed to be writing or not supposed to be writing. I’m content to be content without being concerned about it. I’m content with having nothing more to say.
The retreat was profound. My current clarity is stunning. I have been able to see multiple sides of conflict issues easily. My own indoctrinated patterns of receiving information, the belief-behavior-thinking-action cycle keeps informing me. I was so slowed down for the last two weeks, so aware. Patience has improved.
It was VERY helpful for me, my learning style, to have the movement, drawing and writing (and the very slow hiking). Self, no self appeared much more easily, than through my mental considerations. It was hard and it was good.
WOW and thank you
Bats, chipmunks and mice
Bringing charm, distraction, delight
To no self yogis
Sweet taste, my mouth comes alive
Creating desire, wanting more
Over a yr ago, I hit an arid patch with sitting where I felt static – not just as stand-still but like an untuned radio – I was all over the place. Sitting felt pointless because I couldn’t land. In this retreat, sitting was utterly fascinating, demanding, like white water rafting. It took everything I had to stay present with the variety & intensity of what was racing through.
I made quite a strong commitment to “stay with the program”, knowing that I don’t really know what is best – and I’m glad I did – I learnt a lot about equanimity & preferences and how not to lock down on what I think is best, because “anything can happen anytime.” So the modalities were very useful as a tempering, a constant exercise in letting go.
And often what came out of them was rich & valuable, dear & funny and really worth the effort of having to switch gears.
Again, as I’ve so often said, this retreat is fabulous for life-training skills. I think as a result of the modalities, I really built some muscle in the realm of not holding tight to what I know. I believe this might significantly impact the amount of suffering I experience on a day to day basis. It’s kinda like a bootcamp for seeing opnion preference clearly and not letting it rule the day. Letting the day be ruled by the Tao instead.
So once again I offer boundless gratitude for both your vision & your forebearance.
sitting in the hall
after the thrill of drawing
chipmunk on a rock
waits, tail straight up in the air
then darts to the left
My overall opinion concerning the retreat structure remains in flux. The brief exposure to the highly novel activities of structured movement and drawing might be compared to the vision in a dark room lit by a flash bulb – gee, there’s a lot of stuff there, some of it up close and some further away and a hint of great things mostly hidden in shadow, and then again darkness. I’m glad for the experience; quiescent neurons have been activated, I will forever view the work of others from an enriched perspective, but I do not feel overwhelmingly compelled to take part. The surface of the surface has been scratched.
It is good to perform some activities solely for the pleasure of doing them while in knowledge that one’s product has no other merit. Or needs no other merit. My world does not contain much of this.
I remain grateful for the entire experience.
Most important to me turned out to be the lovely morning “instructions” given by Marcia. Each morning, a new focus. I especially appreciated the use of poetry as a means for “teaching” and was several times “broken open” by the reading of a poem.
The movement section of the retreat was a wonderful physical release after the hours of sitting. But, beyond that it was also a wonderful source of support for improvisation and exploration in a modality I had not tried much. Wynn’s gentle teaching method was perfect.
I fell into the seeing/drawing readily – was always disappointed when the sessions ended! The blind contour drawing done so purposefully and slowly led me to an experience of “being interested” in an ordinary object- which translated to my being better able to focus on and “be interested” in my breath when sitting.
Overall, it was a complicated experience for me; physically difficult, wonderful, challenging, heart-opening, mundane, magical!!! I highly recommend it!
Distract me with the fascinating
architecture of your little furry body,
with the sonar detection that
leads you to nurture – undistracted
by all of us sitting in the meditation hall
trying to find our own way
breath by breath
out of the blind corners of our lives.
Thank you very much for the eye-opening (literally) retreat. I see more, more clearly, and in more detail. And I hold the story of myself more loosely, with less investment in it, considering it more as a story than a gripping reality. Not taking the ever-changing story of the self so seriously. I’m still digesting and appreciating the experience. There’s something about it I have yet to put into words – something about getting closer to just seeing, just hearing, just moving — about experiencing the world and myself more clearly and directly.
Moving with eyes closed, despite there being witnesses watching with open eyes, I found it surprisingly easy to let go of the self. It was as if the movement itself would take over. The attention was so fully inside the movement that the internal witness went off duty.
My eyes began to thrill upon seeing any and every object in front of them – as if I was constantly drawing in my mind, whether my eyes were open or closed. It was quite tricky to handle the energy and constancy of this. I was often awake every 20 minutes all night long with this unstoppable process of seeing.
This is the modality I’m least comfortable and experienced in. I was truly amazed at how big the self was – the one who wants others to think well of her, how powerful. I’d like to think that coming really present with that experience might increase my willingness to step out of my comfort zone. How many opportunities do I miss because I don’t want to risk the burn of self-consciousness?
The retreat was exactly what I’d signed up for – to bridge my practice into my life. It allowed me to see where my practice really was ‘when the rubber hit the road.’ I didn’t always like what I saw, but it was very informative and very real.
It becomes experientially apparent that laughter loosens me up, making me so pliable that I am no longer me — in that transformation a door unlocks, a door I can suddenly, surprisingly pass through. On the other side is now and no-self. In this retreat the door has been unlocked – the lock removed, in fact.
Jet trails cross blue sky
Chill upon a subtle breeze
The retreat revived my interest in the written word and its connection with both the Self and No-self — and of course “seeing” will never be the same again! I hope that a retreat of this nature will be offered again – I can’t sing its praises loudly enough.
Crouched over the flowering pine,
pencil poised to draw,
tingles of shock arise,
seeing no end
to the changing patterns
encrypted within a single cone.
When I first signed up for the retreat, I was hesitant and not looking forward to the body movement modality, and was most excited about the drawing and writing components. However, interwoven with Marcia’s guidance and the teachings in the body movement session, a greater understanding of the transformative powers of the heart began to unfold. With greater awareness of the body, a new intimate relationship with the body has brought forth a new meaning of taking refuge in the three jewels, and yes, the body movement modality.
The movement, seeing/drawing & writing parts of the retreat led me to places that I would never have reached in meditation without the other elements. The experiencing of the natural world without words is really a mind-blowing experience. Since I have been to the retreat, I’ve heard Jill Bolte Taylor talk about her experience of the world without words after a stroke. She talks about the amazing peace & connection that the experience brings. At the retreat, we got the experience without a stroke.
The Self-Not Self & the Creative Process retreat offered by The Mountain Hermitage is a rare & wonderful opportunity to integrate mindfulness into creative expression & an excellent way to see & understand fundamental Emptiness in your own life. Over the two weeks of this retreat, in the lush & inexpressibly gorgeous mountains of Taos, I learned to truly see, as well as the insight & healing that can come from creating from a place of spontaneity. I began to debunk many limiting stories I carried about myself (many of which I hadn’t even been aware of), & healed in countless other invaluable ways, all in the context of a safe, supportive community helmed by expert & innovative teachers. I cannot recommend this retreat highly enough! Regardless of your artistic background, this program is an excellent way to develop or deepen your connection to the source of creativity. I have yet to experience or even hear of anything like this retreat being offered anywhere or by anyone else.