Wake Up Retreat at Morning Sun

July 28, 2016

Orientation has just ended for the Wake Up retreat here, as we begin this four day campout retreat on the majestic land of Morning Sun. We will use much of the 240 acres, to hike, build bonfires, swim, have discussion groups on the edge of ponds, mindfully walk as a community through forests meadows.

What a treat it was to arrive on Monday, three days before we begin the Wake Up retreat, which precedsd the Family retreat a week later. I've been surprised that we've worked so little in the last few days! We've worked a few hours in the monring, and I cooked dinner for this opening night. But the biggest intention for the staff is to hold a solid and fresh container of deep practice, attention, and support for the many young adults arriving. That is our biggest contribution! And done enough to beautifully set up things at the same time.

Since arriving on Monday, it's been a glorious display of nature and community. Or rather I should say, community within this nature preserve. So far, every morning we meditate together at 7am, followed by yoga together. This is my new favorite practice... resting until 7am meditation! Brilliant, I say! Why not be fully rested and awake throughout the day after a long and satisfying rest into the early morning.

What I've enjoyed so much is that the atmosphere is so intimate here during our staffing retreat. Each day, we spend so much time together, among the 6 of staffing and with the teachers. Michael and Fern have been so present every day, sharing themselves with so much care, brightness, and affection for all of us here. And with just 8 of us in total, it feels like we have known each other and been building bonds for weeks, if not months already, during this time.

After our silent breakfast each day, we gather for a short dharma talk and read two or three few mindfulness trainings. Then we discuss among the 8 of us the significance of the trainings to our lives, and share our reflections and understanding of the dharma talk. It's been such a delight to begin the day in this way, focusing on the dharma and nourishing our minds from the get-go. We prioritize this first, before beginning working medtiation. Isn't this the proper order of our ideals... beginning the day with meditation, breakfast, and study of the dharma... before launching into work and goal orientated matters?

After our “dharma study”, we head into a work meeting and take care of various tasks and projects around the community, such as staining outdoor furniture, watering the gardens, mowing grass, cooking lunch, and cleaning the facilities. We're encouraged to work in a spirit of love and joyous contribution for our community, as our highest collective intention is to build an energy of love in the environment at Morning Sun. We are invited to take a break and rest for a bit if we overwhelmed or exhausted and fall out of that spirit. For myself, such encouragements, give me more energy to put my heart and sweat into the tasks at hand.

Just after working meditation we have lunch at the pond, or on a small hill just overlooking the pond, where we are covered by the shade of pines and decidious trees.

After dinner together, some of us head for a swim in Blueberry pond, which is the closest one, just adjacent to the community center. What a more pleasant way to wash away the day's sweat, and play with each other to end our day. Then, we gather again at 8pm for an evening meditation in the meditation hall, as we bring our day to full circle, in contemplative stillness together.

First Sights at Morning Sun Community

After a red eye flight from Vancouver to Boston, a few Morning Sun friends picked up three of us retreat 'staffers' at the airport and train station. What a gift to be picked up by dedicated and absolutely lovely Sangha friends, who I had yet to meet! After a few hours ride and lunch together, we arrived at Morning Sun in the late afternoon, ready to begin the program that evening. I was exhausted, so how fortunate to arrive with dinner just prepared, followed by Fern leading a total relaxation for all of us on staff that evening. The magical orientation and structure of their meditation hall, overlooking the lake, and the gentleness of Fern's words and voice lulled me to sweet dreams of Mornign Sun that first evening. I couldn't imagine a more perfect way to enter a new place and retreat. No orientation, no busyness, just resting, relaxing, and eating nourishing food.

Upon waking this morning, I stepped outside of the yurt in the forest, which I have all to myself. The sun was peeking up over the forest, warmly greeting me with such temptation, that I couldn't help but take off my shirt at 6:30am and bask in the warm bright sunlight over the green marshes and pond below. Fortunately, we don't begin meditation until 7am, which allowed our traveling bodies to setttle I slowly and rest deeply in this quiet green haven called Morning Sun.

Upon entering the hall, candelights offset the dark foresty mood in the hall.. As little glowing bodhissatvas sorround the room, especially next to Thay's calligraphies on the altar: I Have Arrrived, I am Home. Yes, I have, right here, and now. The second one, Enjoy the Present Moment, also sets the intention of this increcidbly gorgeous and intimate dharma hall. Then we listened to Michael offer the Morning Chant. To hear it at Morning Sun, in this candlelit room of 8 of us, sounds 1000 more beautiful than any digital version I've heard many times before.

Breakfast in silence. Fresh blueberries, different nut butters, pecans and alonds, soy and coconut yogurt, oats and bread... the meals are vegan, simple, but luxurious.

What a perfectly ironic name, Love in Action Retreat. From the first 24 hours, I remember little else than sleeping, deep resting, eating deliciously nourishing food, swimming in the lake after dinner, and taking in the beauty of nature in every direction. But I suppose that for action to be really filled with love, we have to offer such basic love to ourselves first. This is the first teaching of one's stay at Morning Sun. Come home, and love oneself in most simple and nurturing ways.

July 27, 2016

In the afternoon, we've had various activities together. Yesterday, we took a 'mindful hike' silently and serenely through the forests to Middle Pond, and Lily Pond, two pristine bodies of water, located in the nature preserve of Morning Sun. We walked freely and let the Earth nurture us, as much as we have been caring for her. She offered us wild blueberries along our path, puddles and streams of fresh fallen leaves to our bare feet, and delicious views of her ponds. As we made our way into the forest, Michael stopped us at a certain point and said that beyond a certain marker, we are not on ''our” land anymore. That is to say, the land belongs to the animals, plants, and all species of the wild there. 181 acres of Mornign Sun are protected in this way, free from human development. It's Morning Sun's commitment to preserve these beautiful lands for countless generations.

We stopped on “Coyote Rock”, with its stunning view of Lily Pond. We just listened silently for a good while to her afternoon pond animal songs, of birds, trees, and insects, which were all new to my ears. Then, we enjoyed a dharma discussion there for an hour. Having contemplative discussions in such a magically beautiful place, invites a caliber of vulnerability and truth that is often hard to reach at other times.

It feels as if the land, community, and teachers of Morning Sun are wooing me and each one of us, to take deeper breaths, steps, and lives here at Morning Sun each day. Every day is like a vacation into nature and meditation retraet in one. Like others, I find myself also asking, Shall I too live here one day, and place my roots down in the soil of this land and community?