By the time you read this, sixteeen of us will be on a day-long silent retreat on Mayne Island. Terrill Welch* is one of the participants; she sent this post after our last gathering. For today’s talk we’ll be listening to a recording by Zen teacher Ejo McMullen.
In the early dawn, I slip off my sandals before entering the zendo and padding barefoot across the carpet to a matt and cushion. I bring only my blanket to the spot I’ll occupy for most of the next eight hours. I have left a lunch, water, work gloves and jacket by the door – leaving me free to be reminded that it is only a matt, not my matt, and it is only a space I occupy for the day not my space.
I sit. I bring my attention to my breath, to the room, to the windows with a view out to forest greens, browns and yellows. I have always liked yellow. It is the colour I am painting the south wall of my studio … it’ll be great to be able to have a place to paint … I observe my thoughts as they swim through the water of my imagination. Again and again I bring attention back to my breath. In and then out and then in again. Now is the only time to be present—everything else is either gone or not yet here.
The room is full of an eclectic group of meditators. Some live on the island, others have come by ferry from Victoria and Vancouver. Some have been meditating for years, some are new to Zen practice, and some are new to meditation altogether. Some sit in chairs, others on cushions on the floor, yet other on meditation benches. We are all welcome to a day of silent meditation that is structured into 25-minute segments.
Peter’s warmth, integrity, humour and practice leads us through the meditations of sitting; standing; walking; a tea service; a meal; a rest period; a period of outdoor work practice, and then, all too soon, we are invited to use our voice, ask questions, or share a discovery before returning again to the final silent meditation of the day. It is mid-afternoon as I leave to gather my things at the door, say good-bye to fellow mediators, and exit into the rest of the day with appreciation.
I breathe in, and out, and in again … remembering that some day I will breathe in and then only out. I smile a smile that comes from deep within and then seeps along the edges of my eyes before resting across my cheeks. I breathe in once more!
*Terrill is a woman living a life of simple abundance on Mayne Island, BC, Canada. Terrill’s vision for the world is that we are walking in the sunshine of our soul; embracing difference, joy, colour and transformation as opportunities present themselves. Learn more about her work with women leaders and her accessible By-Donation approach for elite leadership services.