It is a strange feeling to be back. I actually got home late last night and with no real time to transition from the retreat world to the real world, I find myself on the road again already, traveling in eastern PA for the week. I am writing as much for the benefit of the blog and my own personal reflection as I am to record the immense amount of knowledge and wisdom I have gained over the past three days for future reference. I hope also that what I have experienced and learned I can share with others who might also benefit from it.
The shift in mentality, physicality, activity, and awareness is almost jarring. For the past three days I’ve been completely unplugged. Not isolated or removed, just unplugged. The location was actually gorgeous. In Southbury, CT the school rented a couple cabins. We still had shelter and light and running water but we consciously chose to leave all our technology in our cars, locked away, to use sparingly if at all. I personally chose to go on a complete withdrawal from it all to ground myself again. There is a purposefulness that is wonderfully fulfilling and totally absorbing when you choose to focus your entire day on only a few certain tasks. Not that there aren’t ways to capture that sensation in our everyday lives, but imagine having a full day devoted to only the things you choose to do. To get up early because you want to feel the sun rising on your face during morning meditation. To fill your lungs with cool air and feel the wet morning dew on the grass as you begin your practice. Sharing a breakfast with people who are fully committed to the same goals and values and motivations as you are. Feeding off of that energy, that vitality. To rush back to the hot sun and be completely oblivious to how the hours melt away as you practice. We would take sporadic little breaks to cool down, drink some water, have some fruit, and we’d be back immediately, wanting to learn more, enjoying and valuing every moment as an opportunity to learn and improve and grow. A full day of personal, physical, and mental growth. We practiced until the sun would set and then, as a group, would find a local restaurant to have dinner together. At the school back home, there is a protocol of instructors, assistants, and students. And even within the students, there is of course a ranking of seniority among the higher and lower belts. But on a retreat we wear no uniforms, bear no distinctions, and within respectable reason of course, honor no separation. It is only here that I can have a beer with an instructor or play pool with some of the assistants. It is here, learning something completely different and unique to the retreat experience, that seniors and juniors find themselves on equal footing and able to learn, practice, and spar on equal grounds. At night those of us who have not yet tired of the day’s lessons will find some private secluded areas to continue our practice, share knowledge and advice, and prepare for the next day.
I did not once think of Beautiful or of relationships or loneliness when I felt at all times surrounded by such engaging company. My body was too busy to feel lethargic and sad. My mind was too excited to wander into distracting thoughts. I find the first day back too numbing. It is busy but it is unfulfilling. I think a retreat is always a wonderful idea and it doesn’t necessarily need to be for martial arts. You can retreat within your own home to write, to sing, to draw, to feel, or to not feel. What I have come to realize is that the effectiveness of a retreat is not measured during its own time, but in the time after. Can you capture that feeling of peaceful and serene purpose and carry it with you back in the real world. Can each retreat slowly find its way into your daily heart until you feel it in every waking moment. That is the Zen. So the first goal, above retaining what was learned and practicing it physically, is to retain what was felt mentally and recreate it in every new morning. That is where I start my post-retreat journey.
This week will be dedicated to sharing the lessons I learned from my weekend. During the retreat we focused on two new aspects of the martial arts practice that are not normally taught in the regular curriculum of the school. The first was Yin Meditation, a form of deep relaxation and stretching meditation much like yoga that focuses on benefitting the internal organs, emotions, health, flexibility, and relaxation. We learned and practiced various poses meant to stimulate certain organs and emotions and I will share the poses, how to do them, and how they relate to the very deep and complex world of Chinese philosophy and meditation. I am currently beginning a 100 day challenge of Yin meditation to see how my body and mind change from the regular practice of these poses for specific purposes. I will also share the martial aspect of the retreat, where I am very happy to say I was able to learn a new skill that has always been on my ‘must-learn’ list. I am a huge weapons enthusiast and I love being able to practice as many of the traditional Chinese weapons as I can and over this weekend we learned the double broadsword. Oh yes, that’s right you martial arts fans and nerds out there, we learned how to wield not one but two of the Chinese daos, considered among the family of traditional weapons of kung fu as the ‘General of All Weapons’. I am particularly keen to share my experience and insight into this practice not as it pertains directly, as I do not think I am neither qualified nor equipped to even begin to explain or illustrate the principles, but I am excited to share my insight as to how weapons apply to martial arts philosophy and how that can apply to the nature of relationships as well.
Oh yes, I’m back, I’m energized, I’m inspired, I have a goal and a reason and a purpose, and I cannot wait to share.
Man: 36 Loneliness: 16