An Interview with a Mighty Meditator
Advice and discoveries from six years of monthly retreats
with Maureen Smith
Q: You’re a mighty-meditator! I heard you just finished your sixth annual one month retreat. How has your experience evolved over six years?
Yes I did complete my sixth year of one month solo retreats in Clear Sky’s amazing meditation cabins. They are marvelous venues to retreat in. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my teachers for the guidance and teachings over those six years and especially want to thank Sensei for once again leading the charge and showing me it is possible to step away from outer life for a month each year. It is possible, deeply rewarding and essential for real health.
Over the years my experience has changed in that I am experimenting with the different seasons and seeing what that brings to the inner-outer world dance. I have more confidence in doing the work by myself based on 20 plus years of group retreats with my Teachers and sangha. I started participating in month-long group Teacher-lead retreats in 2006. I find that now the difference between being in retreat and being in the world is much less different than it used to be. Both the logistics and mind states of moving into and out of retreat are smoother and more easeful. Plus I now know how many and what kinds of outfits to pack!
Q: If you could playfully sum each year’s retreat up in 3 words, how would you?
Year 1: What…?
Year 2: Ok, this is hard work.
Year 3: Just do the practice. No matter what, just do the practice
Year 4: Do the practice. Trust the practice.
Year 5: Hmmmm. Kind of odd, this thing we call reality.
Year 6: Huh. What the… Relax.
Q: How has your relationship to meditation changed over the past six years of retreat work?
Over the years meditation has become a trusted, reliable and very close friend. While it used to be something I would visit, like perhaps a family reunion (although I never actually been to one of those), and which might be painful and awkward at first, now it is always with me and the body settles into long periods of sitting meditation with much less resistance.
Perhaps I can describe it now as a sweet lover, a fresh and warm spring morning after a rain, a welcome drink of water on a hot dusty day when I am thirsty, and the clear eyes of a wise being, crinkled with laughter, tinged with fiercely threatening sparks and unbounded depths. My life is better, across the board, for this relationship with meditation.
Q: What advice do you have for sangha seeking to undertake an extended retreat at Clear Sky?
Definitely do it! We have one precious life and it goes by quickly! I have never regretted taking time to do this kind of extended retreat work and there’s nothing quite like it. Get all your personal effects in order well in advance and plan to not be in contact with loved ones until a couple days after your retreat ends.
Start packing early and revise as needed in the weeks and days leading up to it. Check in with your teacher(s) well in advance to see if they suggest a practice for you and then gather the materials or supplies you will need. Clear Sky teachers and residents will support you very well with food, water, bedding, meditation cushions, linens, and washing facilities. Bring your own toiletries and torch, timepiece, and meditation materials. Read the CS website for FAQ.
Be prepared to be tired and that you may sleep a lot in the first few days of retreat. No problem, a good chance for the body to regenerate and catch up.
An Episode from our Podcast – True Happiness: Awakening Through Meditation
Hear from Qapel and Catherine about the path of meditation on the Dharma if You Dare Podcast: True Happiness – Awakening through Meditation.