After the Retreat
The essence of the mindfulness practice can be described simply as learning how to be complete with each life experience, big or small. Being complete means being fully present from beginning to end of the experience. Thus, how one does the retreat – being on time at the beginning and staying through the talking circle at the end –exemplifies the essence of what is being cultivated at the retreat.
Leaving the Retreat Early
It sometimes happens that a student feels that s/he should leave the retreat early. There may be times when this is appropriate. However, please first arrange a private interview with Shinzen to discuss this rather than just disappear from the retreat. There are several reasons for this: You may need some orientation as to how to “re-enter” ordinary life. Also, it is good to clarify the forces that are causing you to feel the need to leave. Sometimes, after this clarification, students decide that they don’t really need to leave right away and are grateful for the sense of empowerment and self-worth this brings.
Furthermore, a teacher feels a personal investment in each retreatant. It is psychologically difficult on a teacher if someone simply disappears and the teacher has no knowledge of what they are going through. If after talking to the teacher, it still seems appropriate to leave, please inform the retreat manager so they can notify the retreat center.
Retreats end with a talking circle, a custom adopted from the Native Americans/American Indians. If possible, please try to attend as this is a wonderful opportunity to share with the group ideas and feelings that arise from the retreat. It is also an opportunity to practice maintaining meditative awareness within the intensely personal realm of human communication. It isn't mandatory to participate by speaking, but if you choose to share, you have an ideal forum to “fully manifest yourself” by allowing your sense of self to expand and contract without interference.
While you are listening to others speak, you may adopt any number of meditation strategies. Some may practice radiating loving-kindness toward each person as they speak. Others may practice expanding their identity by merging with each person as they speak. Others may simply do Vipassana on whatever comes up. This is an eyes open meditation period.
People speak spontaneously and in any order until the allotted time is used up. Raise your hand to indicate you’d like to speak and when you have been recognized to do so, please say your name first. When you are done, please indicate so by bowing or saying something like “All My Relations” or “Mitako Yasin” (same meaning in Sioux) or “Namaste.” Speaking in the talking circle is optional. Be mindful of the amount of time you speak so that everyone has a chance to speak before the lunch break.
Silence ends in the dining hall at lunch. There you can begin conversations with fellow retreatants, not in the room where the talking circle is held, as food staff will be waiting to serve lunch.
Dana (pronounced 'donna')
Teachers are supported by dana – voluntary contributions from retreatants. They receive no other payment for the work they do. The fee you paid for the retreat covers only your room and lodging, organizational costs, and meals. According to the traditional Buddhist view, dana is a kind of connection with and participation in the activity of spreading the Path. It is a powerful practice in its own right (the “dana paramita”) when done in the spirit of generosity and selfless letting go. There is no suggested amount for dana. Each person gives the teacher what, upon reflection, they feel is an appropriate offering.
Teacher dana can be offered by cash, check, or credit card. Dana is also offered to the staff of the retreat center, both the housekeeping/maintenance staff and the kitchen staff. This is by cash or check. If a check is offered, please make it payable to VSI, which will then be converted to cash to be given to staff as a gift at lunch on the last day.
Envelopes for dana via cash or check will be placed in a basket on a table outside the zendo. There will be an assigned time for credit card transactions.
Your feedback has been the basis of changes at the retreats. Please complete an evaluation form (available on the tables outside the zendo) and place it in the Completed Evaluations envelope.