Saturday, December 13, 2008

"It’s the spartan living style and firm scheduling ..."

I missed this; I guess I was busy yesterday...

Zen Mountain [Monastery] is just one example of an ashram or monastery in upstate New York that promises to recharge the mind and spirit of its guests with a combination of simplicity and meditation, served up on a tight schedule. At least half a dozen of these spiritual retreats are tucked away among the Catskill Mountains.

Most have been around for several decades, but until recently their visitors were mainly practicing Buddhists, serious yoga students or devotees of an ashram’s guru. Today, these spots are attracting clientele from the surrounding metropolitan areas who’ve had limited interaction with Eastern religions, yoga or a spiritual guru. Like Mr. Malkmus, who spent several months before his trip clocking 60-hour workweeks, more nonbelievers are coming to experience the rigors of an ashram or monastery as a way to escape...

It’s the spartan living style and firm scheduling at these retreats that make them increasingly popular as an alternative vacation option. Harried urbanites can spend whole days without making a decision or facing a crisis, without trying to find a cab in the rain or worrying about a client. The activities are predetermined and tightly scheduled: meditation, chanting religious verses, doing chores around the property and silent self-contemplation.

The retreats’ accessibility to several metropolitan areas and their affordability also enhance their appeal at a time when the economy is weak.


Seriously, a vacation option at a time when the economy is weak?

It's about your friggin' life, dammit.

Ah, but perhaps I'm being bit too harsh...

It’s generally stress — whether personal or job related — that drives guests to choose one of these spiritual getaways, according to surveyed clientele and the staff at ashrams and monasteries.

Well, the first Noble Truth does have to do with suffering...

And besides...

...Jokei Kyodo, a resident at Dai Bosatsu, said the monastery is not a resort for guests looking to put their feet up. “I had a lady who called me recently and said she had a few extra vacation days she needed to use up,” she said. “We want people to come here and make a commitment to our Zen practice, which isn’t exactly comfortable.”

I have stayed at both ZMM and Dai Bosatsu; they're good places for an introduction to Zen and for practice back in NY.

But here, in Vancouver WA, I have recently completed what I like to thinnk of as "Rohatsu in place," from Sunday to Friday.

No, I didn't sit with Jundo, though I get that.

What I did was increase the amount of sitting to 5 periods per day, and work. And do family obligations. Mindfully, as much as possible. Maybe this is nothing for some folks; but for me, who generally only sits 1/2 hour per day due to time & family constraints except when my teacher's in town, it's a big difference.

And it made a big difference.

It had always slightly bothered me that I didn't do such a thing, and hadn't had an opportunity to do a real retreat in years. In addition, I had done retreats, and it had always intrigued and nagged at me that I couldn't duplicate the seemingly Herculean feats at sitting by myself.

Who the hell was I kidding?


I thoroughly, unreservedly recommend such a practice in the future - maybe Jundo's thing works in the same way, because it's virtual, sitting yourself, you come smack dab face to face rubber meets the road with that egotistical whining, petty monkey-mind ox.

Makes you more tolerant of the folks who might follow some folks whose practice smells like bad fish.

On the whole, very good for you, I'd recommend this as a really cost-effective "get-away," except for the fact that it's the opposite of a get-away.

It's about your friggin' life, dammit.

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