Momentarily letting go of work and familial obligations, 20 people changed into cultivation uniforms and spent three days practicing in the Hsi Lai Temple meditation hall in hopes of rediscovering their true selves. Although it was the very first meditation retreat for two thirds of the participants, as most endured aches and pains in their legs, but by the third day most students could sit still for an entire session.
Our eldest participant and also registered nurse, Eileen Ambrose, expressed that with all the stresses of work, being able to take a weekend off to learn some meditation techniques is the best use of time. The youngest participant, William Wu, said that when he previously came to the temple it was only to volunteer his time and help out. This time around, the Three-Day Meditation Retreat allowed for him to experience the teachings first hand. Though everyone was sore, it was well worth it.
Courses during the three days not only included sitting meditation, walking meditation, meditative strolls, communal work, tea & meditation, but even a discussion on “Emotional Management” to allow everyone understand that the negative effects of anger can only be cleansed from our minds with compassion and patience. Outdoor meditation was held one evening with Ven. Mankuang instructing students on practicing “Sensory Meditation” to train ourselves to maintain focus and singlemindedness even when we are enshrouded by noise all around us. When everyone shared their experiences, everyone was in agreement that meditation needs to be nurtured into a habit for it to be effective.
Ven. Mankuang encouraged everyone, once they returned home, to take out a little time each day in a set location, and “close the eyes to nurture the spirit” in order to relieve the stresses of the body and mind. Finally, Ven. Mankuang told the gongan about Mazu Daoyi’s “grinding a brick will not cause attainment of Buddhahood,” to remind everyone that Chan is not only found in the static sitting meditation, but more importantly the function of focus and positive thought in our daily lives. Before going home, three students even made the resolve to attend the Eight Precepts Retreat at the end of the month.