This Friday I am going to a weekend Buddhist writer’s retreat in northern New Hampshire. This is how the retreat is described:
At the Write Meditation retreat, we will delve into the creative writing process within the context of Buddhist meditation practice and explore how the qualities of mindfulness and compassion can enhance the generative flow of creative writing.
This retreat has much to do with Listening. . . listening with the heart, mind and senses to what arises from the stillness of our being; listening for the voice and narrative that yearns to be expressed through writing.
We will use techniques and skillful means that help bypass our tendency to inhibit or self-edit the creative impulse and help identify the themes and images we most want to explore in our writing. We will also work with methods for revising and revivifying works in progress.
Sounds nice, right?
Although I’ve been to writer’s days and conferences, where there is a frenetic mishmash between workshops and exhibits, I have never gone to an event that is focused on nothing but writing for an entire weekend.
My biggest complaint about my personal writing is that I never have time for it. There is always a job that pops up or a kid’s soccer game that is out of town, or…. My best intentions always leave me with a blank page and a bit of a pissed-off demeanor.
Hopefully this will address that very issue of time.
So what does one do at a Buddhist retreat? The short answer is anything you want. There is a structure, but you are not obligated to follow it.
You do what you need to do. (That’s kind of how Buddhists roll.)
If, however, you do need some structure, there are meditation (ha, my spell check had corrected that to medication) sessions – running from 45 minutes to 1 hours – a few times a day, designated writing times, and even an opportunity to share your writing with others.
I figure that if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this. I’ll be attending all of the meditations (I used to attend a Buddhist meditation group and so for me, sitting for an hour meditating is not as difficult as it sounds) and workshops, while working on my personal writing only (not bringing up any article work) during the dedicated writing sessions. Not sure if I’ll read my material out loud but I’ll certainly go to cheer on others.
I’m also looking forward to the vegetarian meals that will be offered. We’ve all heard that expression “garbage in equals garbage out.” That applies as much to your physical body as to your imagination and writing soul. Even on my restricted diet, (for Lyme disease) my diet could always use some cleaning up.
Between the meditation and the food, I look forward to the cleaning out of stagnant materials that may be interfering with my writing (really, Wendy?? You can’t find 20 minutes during the week in which to write?)
And in an effort to really experience the retreat, I’ll be sleeping in my car for the weekend.
Yup, my car.
I signed up for the camping option. There were bunk house and even private room options available (for an added cost) but I figured – in for a penny, in for a pound. I was all ready to set up one of my son’s single person tents on the retreats grounds (several people do this) when I realized that our (very large) SUV is easily the size of any tent (and its water and windproof.) I’m going to put all the seats down and lay out my sleeping bag in the back. I don’t plan on sleeping much and the way I see it, your eyes are closed when you are sleeping so who really cares where you are (And besides, the doors will be locked.) I’m just going to make sure that I have plenty of warm socks, a flashlight with a backup, and a polar fleece liner for my sleeping bag.
I have friends who are mortified that I would even consider doing anything like this retreat (especially the car sleeping part) and who are concerned that I might be falling into a “cult”, (once again, repeat after me Buddhism is not a religion but a philosophy) but, I’m not worried, the way I figure – it’s all about trying new experiences and getting that story.
And this will definitely be an experience.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.