Well, there is so much to say about this retreat and I have a few photos. BUT I get up at 5:30a to be at the retreat on time for the first zazen—seated meditation– and am so tired right now. To fully function I need eight hours of sleep. 9 is preferable but to even get eight I have to go to sleep now. Also, I got a new camera and have forgotten how to make the photos go from the camera chip to my computer. So that will have to wait till tomorrow… Or maybe Sunday morning as I won’t get home early enough tomorrow to get help from Tommy or Matt.
This has been a more profound experience than I expected. Most of the 110 participants are therapists, mental health practitioners, as well as men and women in the chaplaincy program. They have come from all over this country and Europe. We are learning how the mind and brain are not the same but are co-dependent, how we can change the neural pathways in the brain by changing the way the mind processes experiences and how the mindfulness that comes with meditation practice can bring mental health and well being. I’m not saying it well but this will inform my work with adolescents, the book I am writing, my relationships and—the role I will play in Eve Ensler‘s film about a psychiatrist sent into a war zone to help traumatized women victims of violence. In fact, I find it mindblowing the many facets of my life that will be helped by this retreat.
We are also working on activating the right hemisphere of the brain with writing practices initiated by Natalie Goldberg. I will try and explain more on Sunday. I wish Upaya was huge so everyone could benefit from what is done, taught, learned here. This is no “usual” Zen Center. This is, as Natalie said, “cutting edge.” They are doing things not done in any other Zen Center, bringing together the Zen Buddhist practice with science and the arts and making it accessible to the Western world.
As I have experienced before here, my initial impressions of some participants—they seem dull, uninteresting, etc, –is invariably blown right out of the water when they reveal themselves. Suddenly, breathtakingly, people turn out to be deep, kind, seekers, experts, practitioners who have devoted their lives to increasing the wellbeing of the planet. Love permeates everything.
I brought my ankle weights and Roshi Joan has a recumbent bicycle (it was stashed away under a table and I had to drag it out) so I am able to continue my knee therapy.
We do 3 hours a day of seated meditation. I am finding the meditation hard because I miss my sweetie and it’s hard to stay focused on the breath. Also, there’s no signal in the valley where we are so I can’t even call him when we get an occasional break but this afternoon I played hooky and drove into town where my blackberry would work and we spoke for long enough to ease the longing.
I’ve already written more than I should have and I am wiped so see you next time.