Joseph Wong (English Sutra Study class)
A welcome reprieve from the demands of daily life, the Bao Lin three-day meditation retreat allowed one to simply just be. I especially appreciate the need for silence. The retreat afforded me a chance to leave everything behind for those three days, and just concentrate on the practice.
Travelling on the Path is never easy. It was never meant to be. There were times when my mind would fight against it. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I am too tired. I am too full. I am too busy. All the excuses under the sun to justify why one couldn’t take time off to practice. A sign of a chaotic mind. Just having a chance to be involved in an intensive retreat gradually worn down that barrier for not wanting to practice.
The practice is everything, not just sitting or walking meditations. It is about being at all time, aware of the present moment. The breath counting, walking, lunch etc. It allowed me to be aware of what I was doing, rather than rattling off those words as a reaction to a question or situation. I have to concentrate, and be in the present.
We have all experienced the wandering mind while eating – and it is exhausting and time consuming. The ritual at the beginning of lunch allowed one’s mind to be focused. Along with chanting, the silent vows to: extinguish all evil, cultivate all good and liberate all sentient beings, I have also learned how to eat in silence and to communicate what I need without words at the formal meal.
Just being mindful taught me to finish the current task, and move onto the next one when done. “Multitasking” is never a good option. Without experiencing it first hand at the retreat, I wouldn’t have understood the importance and benefits of concentration.
The talks by the Abbess strengthened my resolve, and further enhanced my understanding of the bodhisattva path. She said “affliction is bodhi, defilement is enlightenment”. The state we are in today – our family, our job, our friends and even our enemies, is the result of our karmic beginning-less past. Take every and all opportunities to turn around bad things happening to you. Turn your enemies into friends. Bad situation into good. Living your life in a mindful way allows that to happen. Mindfulness allows one to have the wisdom, a powerful tool, to appraise the situation and give rise to compassion in one’s dealings with others. This message was barely grasped. Until that talk. Now, I try to apply it in my everyday life. I recognise that I may regress, but, what’s learning without making mistakes? Mindfulness is that introspection. Without that immersion, I would have never realised the benefits.
At the end of it, I felt physically exhausted but mentally refreshed. But I have learned so much in those short three days which I felt would have taken me months or years to get there. This, because I cleared my calendar, cast aside my preconception and immersed in a wonderful and rare experience.
All of these defined the objectives of why I was there. Why I am here, today. I thoroughly recommend anyone who is thinking of (or have doubts in) attending a retreat to give it a go. You won’t regret it.