I was told by a few people that the ‘norm’ for these retreats is that it takes 2 – 3 days for the voice in your head to quiet, and then “all your shit will hit you in the face”. So, it wasn’t without some trepidation that I set out for my first retreat. What shit was going to hit me in the face? Haven’t I already worked all that out? I know what my shit is, I’ve been dealing with it…what now?

Well….To those of you who were looking forward to stories of my total breakdown and rebuild….there was no major breakdown. Which is not to say there weren’t breakthroughs…there were. If I had to come up with only one word to describe the retreat I’d say “peace”. But one word really isn’t enough. And it is entirely possible that this is my word for the retreat because it’s over and that’s what I feel now. There were some ups and downs, but generally speaking, I really just felt “at peace”. Here are some highlights.

Day 1 – arrival – “Let it be”. Being a planner, arriving to see that the daily schedule wasn’t already figured out and that the times for massages weren’t already sorted and that everything wasn’t as ‘set up and organized as I would have it’ was a bit of a surprise. Good news is, I didn’t immediately take over and ‘fix it’. Really, who am I to do that? I did, however, point out that the massage schedule needed to be fixed or they’d have two people showing up at the same time and considering there was only 1 massage therapist, that wasn’t going to be good. Mind you, having two people who are in silence battle it out for the massage might have been interesting. Other than the massage schedule, I just rolled with it. And you know, it all worked out. Here’s the daily schedule:

  • 5:30am – wake up
  • 5:45am – sit (seated meditation)
  • 6:30am – yoga
  • 7:30am – breakfast
  • 8:30am – sit – guided (by either Michelle or Steven, the two leaders/teachers of the retreat)
  • 9:30am – walking meditation
  • 10:30am – sit
  • 11:30am – walking meditation
  • 12:00 – 2:00pm – lunch and ‘mindful rest’
  • 2:00pm – sit – guided
  • 3:00-4:30pm – yoga
  • 5:00pm – dharma talk – i.e. Buddhist lessons, by either Michelle or Steven
  • 6:00pm – dinner
  • 7:00pm – sit
  • 7:45pm – walking meditation
  • 8:15 – lying down meditation
  • 8:45 – sleep
A very structured day, which started on ‘day 2’, as day 1 was the day we arrived. People volunteer to ring the bell to indicate the sessions that happen after a break. My friend Alex (who sat this retreat before) gave me some very good practical advice before I came. He said: when you pick your hut make sure you test the boards, you don’t want to fall through; if you’re the first person in the washroom in the morning look for spiders; and volunteer to ring the bell to wake people up in the morning at least once. Why? because it’s amazing to be the only person awake, out in the middle of nowhere. Thank you Alex – that was great advice. The way this retreat was structured, if you volunteered to ring the bell at any given time slot, you rang it the entire retreat. And so I volunteered to be up ringing the bell from 5:20-5:30am every day. And as the first person in the washroom, I made sure I looked out for spiders. Happy to report that none were seen, or felt.
Ringing the wake-up bell quickly became one of my favourite things. The huts, dining sala and meditation sala form a u shape. And to ensure everyone woke up, I walked the docks ringing the bell in front of each hut. If I new whose hut it was, I said a silent good morning. I got up at 5:00am, went to the washroom and sat on the main deck looking out to the lake and up at the sky. One morning I was treated to shooting stars. Beautiful. A sky full of stars reflected on the lake, and shooting starts to boot. I felt both incredibly small and alive. And extremely fortunate. Just before I’d head out to ring the bell, Ira, a 72-year old from Florida, would get up to have his coffee. There he was, like clockwork, every morning. It put a smile on my face.
On the second to last day a few more people were up early. Everyone was used to the schedule now. As I finished ringing the bell, Mitch (from Calgary) jokingly whispered he should have paddled me around the lake to ring the bell (they have kayaks). I laughed and said ‘tomorrow’. That’s right – silence was broken a few times by whispers…more on that later. So on our last day, I hopped into a kayak and Mitch paddled me around the lake for the ringing of the morning bells. Fabulous. Later that day (once the silence was over) Silla (born in Quebec City, now living in Hong Kong) said I was like “the lady of the lake”. Mitch remarked that it was too bad we hadn’t been doing that all week – if we had I would surely have been standing at the front of the kayak by day 8. I had visions of standing up, ringing the bell and yelling “I’m the Queen of the World” – and immediately falling over into the lake. Hmmm, maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t do that all week.
Alex – thank you, thank you, thank you. I likely would not have volunteered to ring the wake up bell if you  hadn’t recommended it. You were definitely right.
Need to sign off now, as my computer is almost out of battery. A solution for recharging is being figured out my by lovely hosts (as I can’t use the adapter on my mac..). So hopefully more to come tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos of the meditation/yoga room.
The meditation and yoga room

Our meditation and yoga room


View from my mat

The view from my mat - what can I say, I'm a 'back of the class' kind of girl.