Spirit Rock

15 Dec

Two weeks ago Dan, Julie and I went to Spirit Rock for a daylong vipasana meditation retreat with Jack Kornfield. Spirit rock is gorgeous, peaceful and has an energy so supportive of contemplative study. I invited Dan to join me on a whim, and was so surprised when he said he’d be up for coming. Julie? No surprise there, she’s always up for a little spiritual awakening.

The day was mixed with 3 activities: dharma talks with Jack, followed by seated meditation, then walking meditation. We repeated that pattern probably 4 times. It’s amazing how powerful it is to simply be in a room together with so many people meditating at once. Then there’s the land. Nestled in the hills of San Rafael, the place is stunning and there are trails to walk during the walking meditation. At the risk of sounding like a new age hippie, I have to say honestly, there seems to be an energetic pull about the place and a peace that sucks you in.

I was surprised how busy my mind was for a Saturday. I spend the first half of the day going over my to-do list, noticing I was going over my to do list, and coming back to my breath. I did that over and over and over! After lunch, I walked up to the peak of one of the hills, and sat in meditation for quite a while. I was able to do what I call “dropping in” to a nice deep meditation of quiet mind.

I left feeling so refreshed, so centered, so whole. I had many insights felt changed when I left. What a great reminder that I can tap in to that feeling whenever I want, it’s always waiting underneath my thoughts.

I asked Dan to write something about his experience, and this is what he said:

“I had no idea what to expect, so I expected nothing. Eight hours of meditating in the hills of Marin County? Had a loopy, only-in-California vibe to it. I was intrigued. So I figured that best case, I would get some amazing new insights into my own self and a better understanding of many of the things Laurie and I have talked about for years. Worst case, I figured I would get a day in the quiet away from the kids, with the price of listening to some New Age crap for a bit. Sounded like win-win to me.

Therefore, I can say that I was pleasantly – very pleasantly – surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience. I found the sitting meditation rather difficult, being in a room of 300 people with your eyes closed for that long. Funny the sounds you pick up; feet shuffling, itch scratching and stomach growling – mostly mine. Walking meditation was great. Getting out into the quiet, focusing only on your steps and your breath. Brought me back to my youth in the mountains. And Jack is easy on the ears, with lots of interesting stories and insights. In the end, I found it strengthened my belief that we don’t have to be slaves to our thoughts and feelings; that we can experience them without being controlled by them. Sort of a spirit-being-in-control-of-the-body thing, I think.

Serenity Now!”

I learned a lot talking with Dan and Julie about it afterward. Dan shared that while my mind was running through business and to do lists, his mind kept replaying funny SNL sketches and jokes and he was struggling not to laugh. He also had to suppress the urge to ask Jack if Mr. Costanza’s mantra “serenity now” really worked.  I could have guessed as much! It’s great to have a partner who brings a light-hearted balance to my intensity.

My favorite part of the day was Jack’s last Dharma Talk. He spoke about taking refuge in three things: this moment, the breath, and the dharma. He is as fabulous of a speaker as he is an author. I love the idea of refuge – especially right now!

4 Responses to “Spirit Rock”

  1. faaunionbusting December 15, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    Sounds GREAT, Laurie. Did you know there is a Spirit Rock fan group on Facebook? And when are Julie and Dan going to join facebook anyway??

    I’ve GOT to get over there for a day!

  2. Lisa Gray December 15, 2008 at 9:09 am #

    The above comment was from me, in my other persona!

  3. Julie C. December 16, 2008 at 6:48 am #

    I am so happy that Dan didn’t share his “Serenity now!” comment until now. I don’t think I would have made it through the day with that running through my head every time I closed my eyes! It will definitely be part of my mantra now to help to lighten things up when I am struggling to concentrate. Thanks Dan!

  4. ScottyDoo December 16, 2008 at 12:41 pm #

    Sounds like a wonderful experience.

    My sangha’s teacher, Lama Barbara, is doing a 4 day winter retreat at the end of this month, which I would love to attend, but financially there’s just no way. Another time!

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