Silent retreat at The Forest Hermitage

I don’t have any photos from the retreat because my phone was off for the whole two weeks. So here’s a swan I saw in Newcastle

My stay at the Forest Hermitage started out as a long weekend silent retreat, Friday-Monday. When I got off the train I was looking for a taxi, there was a taxi company storefront type-thing right next to the train station, I headed towards it and as I did I heard someone else saying that they were headed to the Forest Hermitage. I inquired, and it turned out they’re going to the same retreat as I was. So we split a cab.

The schedule at the retreat was as follows:

  1. 5:30 : Wakeup Bell.
  2. 6:00 : Puja – Morning chanting and meditation.
  3. 7:00 : Tea, coffee, shower, etc.
  4. 8:00 : Chore period.
  5. 8:40 : Sitting meditation (S.M.)
  6. 9:20 : Walking meditation (W.M.)
  7. 10:00 : S.M and dhamma talk.
  8. 11:00 : Meal, clean up, free time.
  9. 1:20 : W.M.
  10. 2:00 : S.M.
  11. 2:40 : W.M.
  12. 3:20 : S.M.
  13. 4:00 : Break.
  14. 4:30 : W.M.
  15. 5:00 : S.M.
  16. 5:40 : Break.
  17. 6:40 : S.M.
  18. 7:20 : W.M.
  19. 8:00 : Puja, dhamma talk.
  20. 9:30 : Tea, time for personal practice, bed.

Which totals out to nine hours of meditation every day (Saturday and Sunday). It was tough. My body was aching from all of the constrained postures of sitting and walking meditation. One of the things I discovered on the retreat was that I have a tendancy to lean back, thinking that leaning back is standing up straight with good posture. So I worked on adjusting that because the better your posture is, the less achy your body is.

I was somewhat worried about the one meal a day thing going into it. But it was actually totally fine. People came on the three days there was a meal and cooked and offered us food. It was always delicious. I think it was easier to deal with because all we were doing was meditating, so it wasn’t super taxing on our bodies. 

Ajahn Manapo led the retreat. At 31 he’s probably the youngest Ajahn  I’ve met. (Ajahn in this tradition pretty much means they’ve been a monk for over 10 years. Literally it means Teacher) In his talks he talked a lot about sila, virtue. The practice of being good, doing good things that bring about happiness in yourself and others, and avoiding doing things that bring suffering in yourself and others. He talked of Right Livelyhood, a factor on the Buddhist Eightfold Path, and how we can do good in the way we make a living. Or at least avoid causing harm. Some classicexamples of ‘wrong’ livelyhood is dealing in drugs, human trafficking, or weapons and poisons. But there are others as well of course. 

The retreat was a wonderful experience, and a great way to start my time at The Forest Hermitage. My meditation practice clearly benifited from it, and I had a lot of insights. I would like to do a longer silent retreat in the future.

I’ll post about the rest of my time at The Forest Hermitage soon. 

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