A Brief Immersion
By Janice Lee
On March 18-20, 2016, DDM Los Angeles Center hosted a three-day Chan meditation retreat. The retreat was led by Gilbert Gutierrez, one of several lay practitioners who received Dharma transmission from Chan Master Sheng Yen. Drawing from everyday life situations as well as the lives and works of the great masters of the tradition, Gilbert offered the retreatants both accessibility and substance. The retreat drew about 30 practitioners. Some had never attended a retreat, while others had meditated for many years and gone on several retreats.
At the retreat, sitting periods were interspersed with walking meditation or yoga exercises. So as to engage with experiences more fully, retreatants took a vow of silence for all three days. Gilbert encouraged everyone to try to attend to each encounter or action, from walking to eating, going to the bathroom, washing up, and sleeping. In this immersion, participants were given a chance to try on—even if only for a brief period and in an environment simplified to minimized distractions to make practice easier—a type of full commitment to daily living.
At the retreat’s conclusion, most participants reported that they had struggled a bit at some points during the three days. Nevertheless, they felt grateful to have attended the event and to have gained some insights into how to practice meditation better. Gilbert emphasized the benefits and importance of a consistent practice. The only way to “experience it” is to actually practice, he said, even starting with five minutes a day. Gilbert also provided guidance on how to deal with a mind that wonders or is vexatious, in practice and life, and the inevitable attendant disappointment we all can experience facing this. Many participants felt heartened to continue to deepen their meditation practice.
It is rare in this busy world to have the opportunity to attend a retreat.