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.

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  1. It is a wonderful opportunity to understand more about yourself. Whence does the mind spring, and what does it focus on and why? Who are you? The Buddhist looks beneath the social construction, the ego, peeling back the layers of existence until we arrive at pure energy and nothingness. So it is a good opportunity to focus on yourself, to understand yourself on a deeper level that is only possible by attaining a meditative state. The world can wait for a few days. If you have trouble with the breath, then close your eyes and concentrate on seeing the colors inside your mind. That is also an easy technique. Forget the pictures as that is but another distraction.

  2. Don’t get too tired, Jane. Rest when you need to, even if it doesn’t jibe with the retreat’s schedule.

    Frankly, I can’t imagine three hours of sitting meditation – a three hour nap appeals to me more.


  3. Looking forward to more Upaya Zen Center news. Thank you for taking the time to share with us. “A Big Hand for the Little Lady” starring your father and Joanne Woodward is on TV as I type….never heard of this movie!!! …think I’ll watch…sounds very unusual!!! bye for now….

  4. can’t wait so see your new film!!!!nice to read this blog as a kind of diary!it’s a difficult thing the medition,to stay focused and quiet, to be relaxed and calm ,getting in a state of vacuum,to avoid stress and a get clear brain! but you feel fine afterwards!i prefer moving,dancing,ect, but this time, i also practice bikram choudhury yoga,relaxing for my family!!anynway you know all of this. As the other bloggers say.;keep on blogging!it’s super!!frederique dhenein

  5. Jane,

    You are truly inspiring! I love reading your blog and am learning so much from your adventures. The retreat sounds amazing. Keep up with your therapy and good luck with the meditations. Oh, I received my tote bag and t-shirts and they are top notch!!! I love the fact that I’m contributing to your charity and have such fantastic goodies to enjoy. Bring on more, please.


  6. Sounds wonderful Jane, I became interested in Meditations and Art with in graduate school .
    In the about 1978 I ran into Dr. Betty Edward who had just written her will now book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” I as a Artist and Educational Media graduate student doing my masters on information and how we use it. I turned a corner in the University hall way and ran into Dr.Edward and or eye met , were were in the the same place . she make same strange movement and said this is what I was talking about , to the people with her, she said that she was was going to teach the professors about the use of Art and the right brain and if I would be interested in coming to the lecture. I went and learn that she was talking about what I have just been researching , but using Art as the Base. I have been teaching an working on problems in teaching that area to teacher at the graduate level . I had a left brain EEG overload a few year about and I found that I was writing and not drawing , after a few years of research studies I was leaning to contact contact to understand the abstract powers of information and totally of thoughts. It has been noted science of drawing and Zen creative mediation as fact. Not a new area of studies but I have spent a number of years on the subject, at a professorial level educational level. I am finding it interesting on the use of Acting and writing as a output to your development , very exciting to me to see how this is working out for you. I have been in contact with actors for years concerning the use of right and left brain in Acting and have now moved to understanding the visual and non-verbal context of this information as Art output.

  7. The Mind is about survival. Being present, not a functionary governed by past experience requires the use of the brain. 30 years ago one of my teachers said something to me that was so significant that I wrote it down and I have read it so many times that it is now committed to memory.

    “An individual’s particular organization of and rationalizations about his/her previous actions, feelings and thoughts that provide him/her with an identity-an identity locked in the past and tied to the effect of experience. The alternative, of course, is to be able to be aware of the present, to recognize oneself as the cause of experience and to have aliveness.”

    Is this what you are looking at on this retreat?

    By the way, I did see you in 33 Variations and found it to be a very memorable night. Very well done!

  8. Sounds like you’re learning a lot Jane. I’ve been having such sad dreams about my mom since she died last September. She’s always so ill in my dreams and I want to change that and remember and dream about her the way she was before she got sick. I think I need to work on rewiring my brain so that the sad memories slip into the background. But how? I suppose more mediation would help:)

  9. The Center sounds amazing. I’ve earmarked for when my back is well enough to tolerate sitting for 3 hrs at a time (which is definitely not now).

    Keep telling us about it. I can’t wait to hear.
    Did you ever considered learning Reiki?…That is my next project.

  10. I hope you will share more about what makes this center “cutting edge”. It would be great to hear your insight since you have apparently studied at other centers.

  11. Everyday I try to comment your blog, just to show support and see whats new. Tonight, all I feel like saying is – GOODNIGHT! Rest!

  12. This was very interesting reading/

    Zen Buddhism and its relation to art (1922)

  13. ha! that is great…sneaking away to call your boyfriend. it’s like being a teenager in love.

  14. Sounds very interesting and I will be looking forward to when you get the different aspects into your book. I always enjoy your books and one on aging is perfect for my point in life. You are a little ahead of me in age but basically we are in the same age bracket; so you always are relevant to my life with yours. Even though our lifestyles are, of course, very different, the essence of human life is not. I like how you mix in your personal feelings with what you are doing. It doesn’t just make for a good blog but one that is real.

  15. Thanks for this look at a retreat like this. Get your rest, but I do love to read about these things. I appreciate how much you share about your life.

  16. Thank you for sharing all this! What a wonderful place to be! I know it must be enriching to be with people who are totally dedicated to helping others! Looks can be so deceiving! It’s a good lesson we need to be more aware of all the time. We never know all that we can learn and appreciate about people unless we take the time to reach out to others!

  17. P.S. Just wanted to add regarding how looks can be deceiving! I remember in college there was this girl that I felt was somewhat of a snob. I never saw her smile! She had a way of walking with her head held high with her nose in the air! So, I didn’t attempt to get to know her. During my senior year, we had some classes together. I started talking to her, and I became aware what a NEAT person she really was!!! She had a GREAT sense of humor too! I remember regretting that I didn’t get to know her sooner! So, it probably is rewarding most of the time to make an effort to get to know others no matter what they look like, or what they are wearing! He/She just might be a “gem” of a person to get to know! 🙂

  18. Looking forward to hear more, but take it easy three hours sounds a bit strenuous.

  19. Haha! That certainly does sound like love. I have learned something new. I wasn’t aware of the mind/brain difference. Will digest this new info slowly….

  20. Initially when you wrote that you miss your “sweetie” I thought you were speaking about Tulea. I was apparently incorrect in this assumption.

    I’ve never been to a zen retreat center, but everything that you are writing about sounds quite interesting. I look forward to see how you incorporate what you’ve learned there into your book and film role.


  21. This is something that feeds heart.Zazen means simply to sit not doing anything,mentally included.But this is the most difficult exercise as our mind all the time chatter.I dont know whether Jane has read ‘Essays in Zen Buddhism’by D.T.Suzuki late zen master.If not read then Jane must read this book.And other book which I liked on Zen Buddhism is by Philips Bernard.Teaching of Zen is not scriputural but practical.IN some monastary a koan is given to student to work on like ‘one hadn clapping’to decipher the core meaning not intellectually but actually.When suddenly the inherent meaning is grasped by the student he goes under experience of Satori that is awakening of intelligence.A new vistas are opened before the student and ignorance is dispelled.Since Jane has attended Uapaya zen centre retreat must have undergone Satori experience.

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