I’d like to continue on my theme of the difference we experience when we spend time away from our daily routine, because I have realised that it has much relevance to the support that Rev. Mugo & I can provide to those who come to the retreat facilities that we eventually hope to offer at Field of Merit.
Obviously the retreat environment itself will probably be quite different to people’s usual living arrangements. Individual hermitages on the grounds of a quiet rural Zen temple will enable people to absolutely minimise input and demands from the outer environment and concentrate on listening to their own inner environment. This is the opportunity that Rev. Mugo & I wish to offer, but as well as offering a physical place, we also wish to help people to make the most of their time with us, and that includes helping people to find ways to bridge back into their world.
Retreat time is always valuable, but the main value is in the lasting transformation of ourselves that we bring back to our normal daily lives. A peaceful few weeks away is all very well, certainly beneficial, but if we just unplug from one situation and plug in to another, if one does not inform the other, then I think we are losing something.
In the same way that we need to integrate the time we spend on our meditation cushions with the rest of our day, we need to integrate our experience on retreat back into our daily lives, to not completely leave behind the peace and more inwardly-directed way of being that we have found in the quiet of our retreat.
I am imagining that when you arrive for a retreat at Field of Merit one of us will sit down with you and talk about what kind of retreat you feel would most benefit you: the balance between formal meditation, reading, refection, walking, resting; the amount (if any) of working meditation that would be good; how much interaction with others e.g. taking meals together or alone in your hermitage, the opportunity to have tea and a chat together. At the end of your retreat I imagine we will take time to sit down again and review how the retreat went and how to make the transition back to your usual daily life and integrate the fruits of your practice on retreat.
When we do a solitary retreat in the Kanzeon Retreat at Throssel we usually do a short private ceremony when we enter retreat and again when we leave. I personally find this a very helpful practice for making the transition in and out of retreat and one that I’m sure we will encourage at our eventual retreat centre.