I’ve just left Tisarana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Ontario, after finishing the winter retreat period plus another month.
When I arrived, it was a typical Canadian winter. Slowly I watched the icy and snow capped landscape gradually thaw and transform into spring. By the time I left, the lakes had thawed, the trees were budding, and the grass was an electric green.
The retreat itself went well. Perhaps not in a way of deep concentration, but insights nonetheless. When you spend day after day with a handful of people on a regular basis, the experience becomes a giant mirror on your interpersonal habits. How do you respond in a skillful way (hopefully) when someone pushes your buttons? And you also find how you push other people’s buttons as well. How does each situation feel? Where is the suffering? When all our usual distractions are removed, habits become more obvious.
For example, while I love alone time, if I’m around other people, there’s a tendency for me to talk. Sometimes a lot. I was able to look at this and see where it came from, and when it causes difficulty. Am I now quiet and reserved? Hardly. But there is at least a new awareness around it. And also an awareness that it’s not always a bad thing in some situations, and not necessarily a problem unless I make it one. So there’s a bit of acceptance as well. I’m willing to call it progress.
Amidst all this personal work was time making new friendships and strengthening old ones. The community of monks and lay people here is quite a warm, welcoming group, and one I feel comfortable returning to.
It’s a long story, but tonight I’m headed back to England to Harnham Monastery, which I visited last year. I’ll still have limited internet, but will try to post again from there.
Be well and happy, dear readers!