Wake Up Retreat Reflections

The Wake Up Retreat at Deer Park Monastery this year was special with the added presence of the waterfalls over rocky cliffs, bright spring flowers and a full moon meditation. The schedule was extended to a full seven-day retreat, within which, a precious Lazy Day brought much joy and rest to the sangha. This retreat has more experienced practitioners who attended previous retreats and Days of Mindfulness and helped build a strong collective mindfulness energy. A few Wakeuppers reflected on their experience and the effects it had on their lives.

Dana has been practicing for a while in Tampa and Denver and this was their first Wakeup retreat.

I see many ripples into my life afterwards. The lazy day was so surprising, different and beneficial. I’ve been exploring and trying to find a good balance around work and relaxation. I know I can make a retreat into work – now it’s time to do all the emotional work and be serious – and I forget the point is to experience joy. Most importantly, the experience of being on the land, near the monastics, and the flow of different energies was helpful for my life. I feel more ready to not have a plan, more loose, joyful, and open to connect to myself and others and not making everything into a big deal. So, I’ve been doing lazy days. My practice in my all-age sangha and Wakeup sangha has been formal, sitting and walking in a structured and silent style, and now I bring back songs. We’ve been singing and even doing a longer mindful walk around the neighborhood to see the spring. It brings more fun and people like it.

I experienced a kind of vulnerability that’s not scary because it was held in playfulness. The sunset hike was beautiful and the moon rise was also gorgeous. It was lovely to sit and hear a monk chanting and playing the flute. There was enough space for everything, social connection and quiet space for myself to be quiet and cry in nature.

I really resonated with Sister D ‘s “Be your own soul mate” message and got a piece of her calligraphy to remind me. I feel like I have a different orientation toward my feelings now, showing up for myself in the same way I show up for someone I love deeply by being softer, gentle and present with whatever that is unfolding inside. Listening to the Avalokiteshrava chant live, I was so touched and in tears the whole time. The energy in the room felt very good. It was a direct transmission of love.

Some special magical moments happened in the tea room. Someone played a harp while others were reading, stretching, hanging out. I felt into a sweet nap on the couch to someone playing a singing bowl. Then a group of random friends that started to compose a song together, which became such a beautiful and creative collaboration. Even after the retreat, we had a WhasApp group chat, someone would offer a sit or we had a listening party of the song together. These connections are still unfolding in online and in person space.

Jess has been attending many Days of Mindfulness and retreats at Deer Park before and this was her second Wake Up retreat.

First thing coming to my mind is how much I feel loved and supported in this community. The unique thing about Wake Up is that we are surrounded by people who are asking similar question and receive support from that collective energy. I’ve been searching for that spiritual community my whole life and I am so happy to have found it. It feels like a deeply loving familial experience, reaffirming that Deer Park is my home. I had a mid-retreat emotional slump but having a couple extra days in the schedule to process with others going through similar things created an environment of safety to dive in. I got to know people in my dharma sharing group more and solidify the bonds with Wake Up San Diego and with the sisters that I talked to during previous personal retreats like Sister Snow, Sister Nhất Nghiêm and Sister Clear Dignity. I had a chance to hang out with Sister Snow during the retreat; she has been a presence of wisdom in my life.

My group was the Willow tree group, which in Vietnamese could be translated as “liễu” and also means “understanding.”  The highlight of the retreat was the transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings for me, which was something that I’d wanted to do for a while, but not sure how. I am so excited to receive the dharma name True Understanding of the Source or Chân Liễu Nguyên. It felt very special to develop these close relationships with people in my dharma sharing family, to take the trainings together and share similar dharma names. After the transmission ceremony, the sisters came up and hugged me.

What was special during this Wake Up retreat was my understanding the process of Beginning Anew. Sister Lễ Nghiêm told us to let Thầy hold the hand of the mother and father inside you, which helped me lean into that process more. I felt close to Thầy’s teaching, his memory and spirit. Some folks in my life are challenging. I realized I could let Thầy hold the hands of those people too in difficult moments, and I feel less alone. It’s an ongoing process that I started before the retreat and become more solidified. I knew I was doing the right thing in this difficult process and had the support of the sangha. Now I see a deeper sense of purpose behind what I’m doing and the long history of what the sangha has done before. When we have problem, we don’t take sides, and speak with equanimity and kindness. I admire sangha life so much.

I feel grateful when I think about the possibility of living an intentional life. I was told that I was too idealistic and no religion or practice that could support me. Now it works out that I have time to go to the monastery on Sundays and been coming more regularly in the past year. I want lend my time and energy to offer support to the community.


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