One Week to Retreat

One week to my departure to Club Med.  Club Meditation, that is.

For the month of February I’ll be immersed in a Vipassana Retreat in the canyons of Northern California at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, about 45 minutes north of San Francisco.

The setting is fantastic.  The retreat is up a side canyon and backs into what seems to be square miles upon square miles of open land.  Steep hills, deep, rutted arroyos, a blend of grassland and trees of all varieties.  Deer and wild turkey nonchalantly wander through the campus.

The Meditation Hall

I will be living a stripped down life.  Sitting meditation, walking meditation, meals in silence.  A ‘yogi job’ for one hour a day either working in the kitchen or doing household chores.

A teacher of mine once said that we don’t gain anything by adding things to our lives.  The value comes when we take things away.  I go on and on about ‘restraint with awareness’ as part of the path.  This is a pretty ‘restrained’ month.

No speaking.  No eye contact.  No email.  No vmail.  No web.  No iPhone on my hip.  No reading beyond one or two classical dharma books, if I read at all.  Writing will be restricted to taking notes on dharma talks or scribbling something down that just HAS to be recorded.

Other than two 15 minute interviews with a teacher per week, I’ll be in silence.    The last month-long I sat I croaked for the first few minutes of my interviews as my vocal chords felt so out of use.

It’s kind of fun to pack for a trip like this.  How many clothes does one need if no one is looking at you for a whole month?  I’ll do my ‘one bag’ travel thing and bring the absolute minimum, hand-washing my clothes daily as part of my routine.  A few quick-dry t-shirts, underwear, some long underwear, socks and some light wool sweaters that I’ll layer.

It’s the rainy reason, so I’ll bring full rain gear for hiking in what will probably be pretty soggy hills.

It’s hard to get excited about a meditation retreat.  I suspect, if it’s like retreats I’ve done in the past, that I’ll go through some extreme fatigue, a period of intense mental/emotional and physical turbulence and settle into a stillness and subtlety impossible to replicate in the outside world.

I’m bursting with gratitude to have a month like this to pause so deeply.  There is nothing like a retreat where you feel so supported.  People are cooking for you, cleaning up for you, concerned for your welfare and well-being and your only ‘job’ is to be fully present to what is.

Road sign at Spirit Rock