Residential Retreat 2015

by Catherine Sproat

I don’t need to do a write-up after each WIMG event, but felt it would be truly out of character for me to not at least acknowledge this wonderful weekend retreat in some way.

The thing is, it was a very hard retreat for me this time around. Although I felt more grounded and calm, I was still in flux and heading back to the things that put me into that emotional and mental space in my life. It was a hard retreat, but I know that I got something out it. When we’re on retreat, whether it’s for day or a weekend, even if we don’t feel we are learning something, we are. Like every day when we practice, we are learning about ourselves and about finding ways to handle everyday situations. We are learning the Dharma and how to practice it in our daily lives.

Just after I left St. Benedict’s and turned south on Highway 9, a small (about the size of a dime), white-coloured spider appeared on my windshield. Pretty normal some would think, except for the fact it was inside my car, not on the outside. It danced on the windshield in front of me and not on the passenger side as I wished. Normally my first reaction would be to yell out something not so full of loving kindness and pull over quickly. But going at a speed of about 70 km per hour, my ‘normal’ options were the last thing on my mind. I quickly made peace with the spider that appeared to want to entertain me while I was driving. I had my window open a bit and just told it that I was driving so it had to behave or leave. I focused my attention on driving safely so I could make it home in one piece to see my dog that was waiting for me. I remembered people talking about the mosquitoes during our sharing circle and how in our precepts we said we wouldn’t harm anything or anyone. This spider didn’t seem to have been in the room during our talks! It started swaying around the windshield, getting closer to me. At this point I told it that I had enough so it was time to leave. Just as if it understood me, it swung across to my open window and left. I quickly closed my window and wished it well!

Thinking about the retreat, I’m reminded of the Breakfast Club. How a group of students from different ‘cliques’ and upbringings came together for a day and how they ended up relating to each other and finding a common ground. To me that’s what it felt like this time on retreat. There were many new faces and many old friends. We were there for the same reason, but different reasons brought us together for the weekend. Twenty-five people of all ages, came together from different backgrounds and social statuses, all with the need to sit, reflect, to find stillness, and to find bare awareness in silence. Nothing could be more beautiful than that. Hearing everyone’s experiences from the weekend was also very beautiful, and I’m glad to have been a part of all of it.

As usual, St. Benedict’s treated us with respect and the meals were fantastic (especially since we didn’t have to prepare them!). The grounds are amazing with nature right outside the walls of the Retreat Centre. Retreat members found lots to do while doing their walking meditations, inside and outside of the centre. Some found a hammock by the river, others found themselves walking the labyrinth or walking through the woods.  Others found trees to sit under to journal and reflect. Inside, the art room and peace room were available at all hours, so some people spent time in those rooms as well. Kurt offered yoga stretches in the mornings before our first sittings and he guided us through ‘mindful movements’ on Saturday after lunch. There were so many things to do, just to ‘be’ in the moment that it’s hard to remember them all, and what I saw, felt, heard, and tasted is different from everyone else’s experience this weekend.

Now it’s back to life as it was before the retreat. One thing I noticed since I’ve been home is that I’m still relaxed and still preferring silence. I’m reminded of the words which were mentioned on the retreat during a Dharma talk, “No mud, no Lotus.” I will use those words in my meditation for a while as they show hope and beauty to me.

A deep bow of gratitude to Marc, Kurt, Nelle and Amy for making this a safe, peaceful and respectful weekend for everyone who attended.  

Love and kindness,
Catherine Sproat